6 Arrested After Police Raid LAX in Passenger Luggage Theft Case

Search warrants were served at the homes of current and former employees of companies contracted by airlines to handle luggage

By Beverly White, Jason Kandel, Gadi Schwatz, Jonathan Lloyd and Adrian Arambulo
|  Thursday, Mar 27, 2014  |  Updated 11:58 PM EDT
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Airport police are sifting through stolen luggage recovered from a major raid targeting LAX cargo handlers. Six people have been arrested in the sting. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

Gordon Tokumatsu/Kristopher Li

Airport police are sifting through stolen luggage recovered from a major raid targeting LAX cargo handlers. Six people have been arrested in the sting. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

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Trust of Travelers Shaken by Stolen Luggage Revelations

Passengers at LAX are shaken by the news that baggage handlers were stealing items from luggage. Adrian Arambulo reports Thursday March 27, 2014.

Police Raid LAX Passenger Property Theft Case

Law enforcement officers raided Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday night in connection with the theft of passenger property by airport workers. Investigators expect to recover items stolen from countless airport travelers over the last several months. Beverly White reports from Westchester for the NBC4 News at 11 on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.
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Several workers at LAX were arrested Wednesday night after police served 25 search warrants, all in connection with the theft of passenger property by airport workers, officials said.

The workers are current and former employees of companies contracted by airlines, primarily to handled baggage. They are accused of stealing luggage and other items in terminals, from airplanes and on the tarmac, authorities said.

Police from both the LAPD and airport officers converged for the raids at the airport and locations across south Los Angeles County, including several homes.  Detectives seized jewelry, clothes and other items at the homes when they served 25 search warrants, according to airport police.

A final count regarding the pieces of stolen luggage was expected to be released Thursday. Authorities confirmed Thursday morning that six people were arrested -- four on suspicion of possession of stolen property, two on outstanding warrants.

More arrests are possible, according to investigators.

LAX Assistant Police Chief Michael Hyams would not name the contractors involved, but said that "everybody who comes to work for the airport goes through security clearances." The individuals under arrest went through employee background checks before working at the nationa's third-busiest airport, according to airport police.

"It's a disappointment, but a fact of life, that sometimes a few people will succumb to the temptations at LAX," said Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon. "The actions of these few do not represent the nearly 45,000 individuals who work for the nearly 350 employers here at LAX."

NBC News reported Thursday that employees with Menzies Aviation, which has an airport office on World Way West, were arrested in connection with the thefts.

"Menzies never tolerates the theft or destruction of property and requires all of its employees to conduct themselves in an ethical manner and in accordance with all laws and regulations," the company released a statement Thursday.

Company officials said they are cooperating with police.

They also said that every Menzies employee undergoes a thorough company, Los Angeles Airport and U.S. Customs and Border Protection background check prior to employment.

Menzies said the case was limited to a handful of employees, acting independently.

Most of the activity at the airport -- where an estimated 55 million pieces of checked luggage are handled each year -- took place at Terminal 4 and the Tom Bradley International terminal. Other locations included Inglewood and Paramount.

"We want to do everything we can to make sure our passengers have best experience possible and probably one of the things that really contributes to that is when they get to their location, they have all the property they left with," Hyams said.

Police spent the night documenting items that were believed to be stolen from passengers and will try to return those items to their owners.

Police at LAX were also being asked to keep an eye on paparazzi as well on Wednesday night. NBC4's Gadi Schwartz reported that Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Khloe Kardashian and Justin Timberlake were at the airport at the time of the arrests.

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