The next time you fly, be thankful Pythias Brown and the 380 other TSA officers who have have been caught stealing from passengers between 2003 and 2012 are no longer on the job. Though the agency says the nearly 400 officers who have been fired “represent less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by TSA, I doubt that is much comfort to victims of Brown, who admitted to stealing $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a period of four years. Not to mention, that figure isn’t reflective of all the people who haven’t been caught.
Brown, who was recently released from prison after he was caught trying to sell a camera from the luggage of a CNN producer on eBay— but neglected to remove all the networks’ identifying stickers (should’ve stuck to his day job) — spoke to ABC News about how easy it was to steal. The former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International said:
“It was very commonplace, very. It was very convenient to steal. It became so easy, I got complacent,” he said.
According to ABC, Brown was assigned to screen luggage behind the ticket counters and often worked alone. He was even informed when overhead surveillance cameras weren’t working.
“It was so easy. I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand. Nobody said a word.”
Soon, he stepped his game up, so to speak, and learned how to read X-ray scans to pick out the most expensive things to steal.
“I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag,” Brown said. “It was like being on drugs, it was. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ but the next day I was right back at it.”
At the time of his arrest, Brown had around 80 cameras, video games, and computers for sale on his personal page on eBay. Perhaps he views his interview with ABC as some sort of atonement, saying he’s only speaking out now to warn passengers. He even added a tip that the supposed TSA-proof locks sold for luggage don’t work because TSA employees know how to pick them without anyone knowing.
Of course, hearing all of these details makes it seem as though everyone working in airport security is corrupt, but Brown claims most people are honest, it’s just the low pay and poor morale among employees that tempts them to steal. According to Brown:
“They didn’t think it was okay, but they did it and said, ‘I don’t care. They ain’t paying me. They’re treating me wrong.’ But then when people started seeing they could profit off of it, then it became massive.”
Has anything ever been missing from your checked luggage after a flight?
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