Thick As Thieves: The TSA & the Union Protection Racket


With the flying public still outraged by the continual TSA infringement upon their personal liberties and pending legislation aimed at curbing TSA abuse, there is another problem that plagues the TSA and that is the thieves that have infiltrated the agency responsible for keeping our nation’s airplanes free from terrorists.

On Friday, Paul Yashou, a Transportation Security Administration officer working at Los Angeles International Airport, was indicted on two felony and three misdemeanor theft counts.

Yashou is alleged to have stolen the items from luggage going through security at LAX’s Terminal 1, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said. According to the indictment, one of the watches was valued at about $15,000, another at $5,000 and two at $1,000. The pre-paid debit card was valued at $1,000.

The arrest comes on the heels of another TSA agent’s arrest at LAX in May.

Across the country, also on Friday, TSA officials in Florida fired and filed charges against TSA agent Toussain Puddie for stealing a passenger’s $450 pen at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Last week, radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham claimed that her baptismal cross went missing from her checked baggage at Newark’s Liberty International Airport.

In her luggage was a small purple jewelry bag containing the cross she received at her Catholic baptism about nine years ago. “It’s from the Vatican,” Ingraham told TheDC. “It was blessed by the Pope.”

In another incident earlier this month, a Continental Airlines employee in Florida noticed that the bulge TSA agent Nelson Santiago’s pants had more the makings of an iPad than happiness.

After being arrested Monday on two counts of grand theft, police say Santiago admitted to stealing computers, GPS devices, video cameras, and other electronic merchandise from luggage he was supposed to be screening.

According to authorities, Santiago made up to $50,000 over a six-month span by photographing the stolen items, posting them on line and selling the (often before the end of his shift).

In June, as reported by the Examiner, former TSA supervisor Michael Arato was sentenced to 30 months in prison for accepting kickbacks from a coworker who allegedly stole money regularly from passengers during security screenings at Newark International Airport.

This occurred around the same time as the TSA proposed the removal of more than 30 Honolulu International Airport (HNL) TSA employees following an investigation into “allegations of improper screening of checked baggage.” [The TSA did not state what the allegations of improper screenings were.]

In March, TSA officials in Hawaii arrested Dawn Nikole Keka (a lead TSA agent) after the TSA conducted a sting to catch her. The sting was in response to allegations that Keka was stealing cash from Japanese travelers passing through her screening lane.

Back in February, two TSA agents at Kennedy Airport admitted to stealing up to $160,000 from passengers. Ironically, Davon Webb and Persad Coumar were caught only after trying to steal $40,000 from a bag they thought belonged to a drug dealer.

In addition to the numerous stories of abuse the flying public experiences at the hands of the blue shirts allegedly safeguarding the nation’s airports, these examples of TSA agents stealing from passengers are by no means isolated incidents.

Back in 2008, the TSA responded to public outcries on its blog by minimizing the TSA theft problem.

To date, we have terminated and sought prosecution for about 200 of our employees who have been accused of stealing, either from checked bags, passengers’ carry-ons or fellow employees. While 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage (less than one half of one percent) over the short life of the agency, one theft is too many when you are in the position of public trust as we are.

The fact that 200 have been caught and fired underscore the point that those 200 are only those that have been caught. What about all those who have not been caught?

According to a 2010 USA Today article, from 2004 to 2009 there were over 114,000 complaints that airport screeners lost, stole or damaged items in passengers’ bags. However, during the time period, the number of complaints fell by 50% from 26,000 in 2004 to less than 12,000 in 2009.

In June, although only 17,350 voted in a runoff election, the American Federation of Government Employees succeeded in unionizing the nation’s 44,000 TSA agents.  Although prior to its winning, AFGE had bragged on its Facebook Page, “With multiple full-time TSA-dedicated attorneys on staff, AFGE is the only union to offer to its members FREE legal assistance,” it is unclear whether AFGE intends to offer “free legal assistance” to those charged with stealing from airline passengers.

Whether the AFGE’s offer of free legal assistance is actually free to TSA thieves, molesters and child porno-creeps (or not), ultimately it will be paid for by America’s taxpayers, since it is the taxpayers who pay for the 44,000 TSA agents, many of whom will be paying union dues for “representation.”

In the meantime, travelers are still well advised, when going through those TSA checkpoints, to protect their junk and their jewelry.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

Photo credit: Gulagbound


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  1. Since December 38 TSA screeners have been arrested for theft of passenger property, rapes, child pornography, drug trafficking, assault and theft from passengers. TSA has 47,000 employees and is on a pace to commit over 70 crimes at work in 2011.By contrast, Microsoft has 84,000 employees and had one employee arrested in 2010 for a minor incident unrelated to his job.
    Pistole has proven completely incapable of stemming the increases of TSA screener crime, passenger abuse and security failures and created an organizational atmosphere that allows this behavior. The agency defends even the most egregious abuses by their personnel and deafly recites the same tired lines of “abundance of caution”, “respectful and sensitive” and “highest employee standard of conduct” in the face of repeated incidents demonstrating complete failure in all of those categories.
    There is clearly a problem when an agency this size has this level of job-related criminal activity and passenger abuse. A Congressional investigation into TSA management and personnel is warranted to determine the sources of these organizational deficiencies and removal of those responsible.
    The agency has yet to acknowledge abuses and failures that are blatantly obvious, thereby fostering an organizational arrogance and indifference to passenger concerns. It is irresponsible for any organization to ignore criticism when there is overwhelming evidence of its shortcomings. Since Pistole heads this agency, he must be held accountable for its failures.


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