Investigation Began After Numerous Complaints From El Al Passengers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The investigation began after El Al Airlines passengers sounded the alarm. Jewelry, computers, iPads, iPhones and more had disappeared from checked luggage.

The thefts amounted to tens of thousands of dollars over a five-month period and prompted the airline to root out an apparent ring of thieves that had inside access to luggage, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported Friday.

A camera placed inside the belly of a 747 led to the arrests of contract baggage workers Tristan Bredwood, Julio Salas, Oshaine Christie, Romaine Smith, Nikosi Cunningham, Dashawn Schooler, and Udhoo Doonauth, police said.

Video shows the suspects rifling through luggage and pocketing items on planes that were making regular flights between Kennedy Airport and Israel, according to prosecutors.

Mohammed Salim said he was surprised to find out that his relative, Doodnauth, was named in the alleged ring.

“This is a shock,” he said. “He operates the push-back that pushes back the plane.”

The thefts were not a total surprise to passengers at Kennedy Airport who said that they preferred to carry their valuables on to flights.

“I have all my money on me. Wallet, laptop, iPod, everything right here in my carry on,” Joanna Kayata said.

On Friday El Al spokesman Daniel Saadon issued a statement condemning the thefts:

“EL AL and Port Authority police conducted an investigation into the theft of items from luggage of passengers departing many airlines from JFK International Airport.  EL AL security cameras identified the suspects who are employees of an outside handling company who work for many airlines. As a result of this investigation, several arrests were made on Wednesday of this week. We hope these arrests will send a strong message that should put a stop to this illegal activity. EL AL was happy to assist the Port Authority police in solving this criminal activity. As always, EL AL security closely monitored activities related to this investigation and at no time was security compromised.”

The seven suspects were charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

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