San Francisco Chronicle: Three baggage handlers convicted in thefts

SAN MATEO -- Three baggage handlers at San Francisco International Airport have been convicted of stealing from luggage during an undercover sting that was launched in the wake of the theft of a retired police sergeant's gun, authorities said today.

Andrew Balamiento, 28; John Emil Victoria, 21; and Tauailapalapa Laulu, 27, each pleaded no contest to embezzlement for stealing from passenger luggage while working for Servisair, a ground handling company that serviced Delta Airlines.

The case began in September when a retired San Francisco police sergeant checked his custom-made handgun with his luggage for a Delta flight. The weapon disappeared after check-in and was the latest in a spate of thefts from luggage, said Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County's chief deputy district attorney.

Why talk about this issue here? This isn't a law enforcement fail directly, but this sort of incident arises from a failure on the part of the TSA. While you are being jostled and frisked and photographed at the security theater checkpoints, such microscopic examinations are not directed at the people who handle your checked luggage. That leaves it vulnerable to baggage handlers, and those TSA locks won't help, since the TSA will steal the stuff themselves and help themselves to your locks too. If someone can remove stuff from checked baggage, they can certainly put stuff in it as well, and a plane is obviously much more vulnerable from something you can fit in big checked suitcase than from something you can fit in your shoe.

The other reason is to highlight a law enforcement win as local law enforcement has picked up the ball the TSA has dropped.


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