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TSA worker arrested on suspicion of stealing from passengers at LAX

June 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Transportation Security Administration worker has been arrested on suspicion of stealing from passengers' luggage at Los Angeles International Airport, police said.

Paul Yashou, 37, a Transportation Security Administration employee for nearly 10 years, was arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing from passengers' luggage. Yashou posted $20,000 bail and is set for arraignment on July 14.

"It's a disgusting representation for an individual in that position to do something like that to the public that trusts us," said TSA Spokesman Nico Melendez.

It's not the first time for the agency. In 2007, socialite Paris Hilton's watch was stolen by a TSA agent. Last month another screener was arrested for allegedly stealing.

And last year a TSA employee pleaded guilty to stealing $20,000 worth of jewelry and other property out of people's luggage at Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

It's all leaving some people wondering if the baggage-security screeners need a good screening themselves.

"Each employee that works for us has had a complete background check. But the problem with a background check is background checks don't predict the future," said Melendez.

It's not clear how many victims there are, but Melendez says police are accusing Yashou of taking about $30,000 worth of goods, including electronics and gift cards.

It's a travel saga passenger Jane Salmons knows all too well. She says hundreds of dollars' worth of gifts she was bringing back from vacation was stolen at Orlando International Airport.

"I was really angry," said Salmons. "We had bought specific gifts for specific people all along our trip, and everything, just about everything was taken."

Melendez says there has only been a handful of similar incidents in Southern California in the past few years, and there are other passengers whose faith isn't swayed by the alleged baggage burglar.

"I think that's terrible, but I think it's an isolated case," said traveler Jim Trockman. "I'm glad that TSA goes through people's luggage and looks for dangerous things because it makes me feel safer when I fly."

But for those who feel less safe flying at the hands of TSA, it's good news an alleged thief was caught, even if they never get their things back.

"It's the violation of it, the fact that somebody would actually have the audacity to even touch my things, and made everything seem really dirty to me," said Salmons. "And it really made me not want to travel."


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