Feeds

Airport baggage screener charged with stealing passengers' stuff

Low morals, high eBay rating

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A baggage screener for the US Transportation Security Administration has confessed to brazenly stealing a trove of electronics gear from the luggage of passengers he was sworn to protect, federal prosecutors said.

Pythias Brown, 48, of Maplewood, New Jersey, regularly sold the high-priced video cameras, laptop computers, and global positioning systems on eBay using the handle "alirla", according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Newark. Brown told investigators he began stealing the items in September 2007 while screening luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Among the items Brown helped himself to was a Sony Camcorder and related paraphernalia from a Cable News Network employee who was flying to Houston. The same day the items went missing, on August 12, alirla posted them for sale on eBay. After a federal investigator offered a winning bid and took possession of the gear, the investigator found it bore the serial numbers and bar codes contained on the CNN employee's missing items.

A month later, while an employee of the Home Box Office network was traveling to London, a $48,000 Hasselblad camera and accompanying lenses disappeared from bags that passed through TSA screening at Newark Liberty. One day later, alirla's eBay account listed the identical items.

Investigators tracked the alirla account to Brown using the internet protocol address for his home computer. They also found his physical address listed on the package that included the CNN camera. Closed circuit TV recorded him mailing the package at a nearby post office.

Investigators searching Brown's home recovered 66 cameras, 31 laptops, 20 cell phones, 17 electronic games, 13 pieces of jewelry, 12 global positioning systems, 11 MP3 players, eight camera lenses, six video cameras, and two DVD players. He admitted to stealing two to three items per week.

Brown was freed on $100,000 unsecured bond, according to a prosecutor in the case. He has not yet entered a plea. He faces up to ten years in prison, according to news reports. Brown's attorney didn't return a phone call by time of publication.

No doubt, anyone who has ever flown has felt the ignominy of having a perfect stranger rifle through their stuff. The accusations against Brown aren't likely to improve relations between passengers and TSA screeners.

Alirla, on the other hand, had a stellar reputation with the people he sold to. His eBay feedback profile contains 205 positive reviews, one neutral review, and zero negative reviews. Typical was this comment, from a buyer of a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera: "fast, friendly, awesome product. just as described. will do business again. A+++++" ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Shellshock over SMTP attacks mean you can now ignore your email
'But boss, the Internet Storm Centre says it's dangerous for me to reply to you'
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.