CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 25: Travelers with their baggage are seen in a check-in line September 25, 2006 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. The TSA announced today they have slightly relaxed the ban on carrying some liquids onto passenger flights to allow most toiletries and beverages bought after the security checkpoints. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Port Authority police busted two Transportation Safety Administration employees for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from checked baggage at John F. Kennedy Airport.
Persad Coumar, 44, and Davon Webb, 30, were each charged with third-degree larceny, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, fifth-degree conspiracy and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, the Queens district attorney's office said.
The money was all reportedly stolen from one passenger's baggage.
Prosecutors said Coumar allegedly X-rayed a piece of baggage on Jan. 30 and noticed money inside. He is then accused of phoning Webb, who was in a baggage belt area, to tell him about the discovery.
Authorities said Webb showed up and marked the bag with tape. Coumar is then accused of intercepting it in another handling area, and removing cash from the bag. The pair later met in the bathroom to divide the money and hide it in their clothing.
Police say $39,980 was recovered from the suspects' homes in connection with the investigation.
The TSA hired Webb, who lives in the Bronx, in 2004. Coumar, a Queens resident, has worked for the agency for nearly a decade.
The Queens district attorney did not know if the two suspects had lawyers. They could not immediately be reached.
The TSA condemned the behavior of the accused thieves and said in a statement that the agency has a "zero tolerance policy" for theft in the workplace.
"The disgraceful actions of a few should not reflect negatively on the approximately 50,000 TSA officers across the country who work each day to keep the traveling public safe," the TSA statement said.
The arrests of the two men are the result of an investigation initiated by the TSA in partnership with Port Authority police after another TSA employee at JFK reported the thefts to agency management, according to a TSA official familiar with the case.
Nationwide, the agency has fired 12 TSA officers for theft from the security checkpoint or from checked baggage, the official said.
The TSA official also noted the agency is currently in the process of terminating both Webb and Persad.
"The agency is working closely with law enforcement authorities to ensure the individuals responsible are prosecuted and we will move swiftly and decisively to end the federal careers of any employee who engages in illegal activity on the job," the TSA statement continued.
If convicted, the agents face up to seven years in prison.