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Photo: debaird™

THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED to hundreds of passengers whose bags was screened by Pythias Brown at Newark International. For a year +, he would swipe 2-3 valuable items per week from passenger luggage and sell them on eBay for cheap, making a total of $400,000.

Brown was caught and jailed in 2009, but the problem is much bigger than him. Since the creation of the TSA after 9/11, somewhere around 500 employees have been fired for baggage theft, with JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark seeing the largest numbers.

Laptops, cameras, jewelry, cash — with the TSA’s broad authority to open and search any bag they see fit, there aren’t many barriers to theft for someone who’s set on it. And, with the low starting pay, minimal chance for advancement, and reportedly awful morale (how would you feel if the public taglined your agency “Protecting you from yesterday, tomorrow”?), it seems a lot of people were/are set on it.

Besides another reason to hate flying, here are some points about this story that are especially shitty:

  • TSA doesn’t seem to keep clear records of incidents of theft and the subsequent firings. Does not inspire confidence.
  • Through the TSA claim system, passengers can report items lost. If theft is determined as the reason, TSA will compensate what was taken, presumably with taxpayer money.
  • How scary do the implications get? Thom Stukas, an HBO cinematographer who had $47,000 worth of camera gear stolen by Brown and eventually tracked him down on eBay, put it like this: “What’s to stop them from taking a $100,000 bribe from somebody and putting something in the bag instead of taking something out? What’s stopping them from putting a fucking bomb in there?”

I respect the TSA and appreciate the duty they’re tasked with. But, exactly because their job is so important, shouldn’t they have more control over their employees?

Source: The Intercept: To Serve, to Protect and…to Steal



About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Turner

    Not inspiring confidence

  • ZegToo

    lol, the TSA is a JOKE. Bigggest WASTE of an agency there is, period.

  • Peter

    This is why they need to be allowed to unionize. That way they willhave collective bargaining protection and won’t need to worry about getting fired when they get caught.

  • Bob

    At least we don’t have to worry about the pedophile TSA agents stealing our stuff. They love their job too much to risk losing it.

  • Bubba

    Guvvermint ARE good!

  • Wake Up America

    “I respect the TSA and appreciate the duty they’re tasked with. But, exactly because their job is so important, shouldn’t they have more control over their employees?”

    You appreciate the TSA sticking there hands down 6 year olds and other peoples pants?

  • Josh

    No matter how many great people you’ve got working for an organization, there is always going to be some jerk that ruins it for everyone else. I’d say the better option would be to mail your luggage instead of flying with it, but UPS and Fedex have got these kinds of issues as well.

    • Psychiatrist in Sacramento

      I completely agree Josh. There’s a lot of great TSA people out there that are doing their best to keep us safe, etc., but there’s also a lot of crooked people that make the entire TSA look bad. I’ve also had items stolen from my luggage, not as expensive as a laptop, but it was still annoying. I always take important, or expensive items in my carry-on now.

  • joe

    its insane. these are the people who are supposed to be keeping airports safe. yet they are probably some bum who got fired from their bagging job at the grocery and this happens to be a job that requires the same exact amount of skill.

    we already get robbed by the airlines to get a seat and a bag on the flight, then we get robbed by government employees, paid to protect us, on the way in. SMH.

    we need to catch up with the rest of the world and get a high speed rail system going here in the USA.

  • Anna

    The TSA are a bunch of goons.

  • Dave


  • James

    The TSA is a job creation scheme. Or didn’t you realize?

  • jhjh

    I don’t trust airports at all with my stuff. Everything I need, I’d like to bring as a carry on.

  • Michael Davis

    In Retail it is common practice to search an employees bags before leaving work to prevent loss. Why not implement this for TSA agents?

  • Preschool

    This guy needs to learn basic manners at preschool!!

  • Fisher1949

    Aside from the scanner complaints and reported gropings, TSA has established an impressive resume of criminal conduct. In the past six months, a total 21 TSA employees have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes.

    A TSO arrested for kidnapping and attempted rape of a minor in ATL
    The hostage taking by an ABQ TSO in NM that ended in a police shootout.
    The conviction of a PHL TSO for theft of laptop computers.
    TSO fired after attack on traveler in parking lot at ORD
    Two TSA screeners and Managers arrested for drug use while at work in LAX
    HNL TSA worker arrested in theft of cash from travelers
    The arrest of a MEM TSO for attempted theft of a laptop computer.
    The arrests of a JFK TSO and LTSO for the theft $160,000 from checked baggage.
    The conviction of a EWR TSO for theft of $39,000 from passenger’s bags.
    The Buffalo TSO was arrested for drug trafficking.
    The arrest of a EWR TSO for impersonating a CBP police officer.
    RIC TSA Officer Bob Seashols Admits Plot to Post Porn on Christian Site
    TSA screener pleads guilty to theft in Las Vegas
    TSO Arrested for Rape of a 14 year old in Londonderry NH
    PHL TSA Screener Charged with Child Pornography

    In the past six months 21 TSA employees have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes. TSA is currently on a pace to have 35-40 employees arrested by the end of the year. No other Federal agency, many of which are far larger, come close to this level of criminal conduct. Nor do similarly sized private sector companies have this level of criminal arrests among their employees. Have you heard of any Microsoft employees being arrested for job related crimes this year?

    It is apparent that TSA is hiring from the “bottom of the barrel” and inadequately investigating these employees prior to placing them into intimate contact with traveling adults and children. If this many arrests are making it into the national news how many crimes go undetected? Much like the reports of abusive groping, theft and other misconduct, for every one that makes news there are likely ten or more that will never be reported.

    Twenty one criminal acts, eighteen security failures, 4,000+ groping complaints and dozens of lawsuits, all in five months, but TSA hasn’t stopped one incident in nine years. Fortunately some people and lawmakers are beginning to realize that they are being misled by TSA’s paranoia.

  • http://matadornetwork. Anthony

    I fly through Newark twice a year from Europe. Every third time or so, I get something stolen. I just gave up trying to get compensated. They make it so difficult. Newark is the worst airport in the world!!! TSA must be stopped!

  • IDon’tThinkSo


    is now

    Stealing from

  • Adam Bungle

    This post is not meant to be aggressive just passionate and conversational

    “I respect the TSA and appreciate the duty they’re tasked with.”

    You “respect” the TSA and “appreciate” the duty they’re tasked to do? Umm and you admit to that? Let me be clear here. The TSA do practically zero, that is ZERO to reduce terrorist attacks (If in doubt look at the studies and stats).

    They DO take naked pics of people and don’t delete them as they claim.
    They DO inappropriately feel men and women’s sexual organs. Oh and practically molest children.
    A large number of them DO abuse their position by stealing and various other crimes.

    Now you respect that? Because they do it for money (like drug dealers do it for the money)? Or because they work for the government to infringe Constitutional Civil Liberties (Like the NAZI’s did)?

    I admit anyone that will give away their morals for a pay check has EVERY RIGHT to do so, but they cannot expect to be respected. Try and justify them anyway you can but it just doesn’t add up. Everybody should refuse to work for agency or go on strike until the whole system is overhauled. If a terrorist wants to blow something up they will find a way in this system, even I know how one could get items past security in its current format of untrained, in-organised, ridiculously inefficient draconian rules and technicalities. They have no power to make there own judgements as the Gov. don’t want to train them or allow any human decisions that can be held against the higher ups in event of human error. Gov. is happy to allow terrorism as long as every procedure was followed.

  • proxicon

    “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED to hundreds of passengers whose bags was screened by Pythias Brown at Newark International.”
    I think this sentence should read:
    “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED to hundreds of passengers whose bags WERE screened by Pythias Brown at Newark International.”

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