Seven baggage handlers at JFK Airport were arrested by Port Authority police detectives and charged with systematically stealing thousands of dollars worth of electronics, jewelry — including a $5,000 watch — and other personal items from El Al Airlines passengers, an authority spokesman said tonight.
El Al got so many complaints about missing property that the Israeli airline installed a surveillance camera in the baggage hold of a 747 that shuttled between Terminal 4 at JFK to Israel.
Prosecutors said the videos showed the handlers — commonly known as “ramp rats” — stuffing some of the items in their pockets and down their pants.
The Port Authority detective squad at JFK arrested seven handlers, both on and off airport property, the authority’s Joseph Pentangelo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
One of them was wearing a watch that authorities said was stolen from someone’s bag.
After obtaining search warrants, the investigators found a good amount of stolen items in the defendants’ homes and cars, Pentangelo said.
They included several laptops, iPads, cameras, jewelry, GPS units, perfume, clothing, a Sony Playstation and more, and were stolen from both inbound and outbound luggage over the past several months, he said.
The case was investigated “rigorously” by Port Authority Detective Dwan Maharaj and Sgt. Thomas Bomengo, Pentangelo said.
“The property stolen in some cases had great sentimental value,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “It was critical that this matter was addressed.”
Arrested and charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property were:
Tristan Bredwood, 22, Queens
Udhoo Doodnauth, 27, Queens
Julio Salas, 44 Queens
Dashawn Schooler, 25, Wyandanch
Romaine Smith, 25, Brooklyn
Oshaine Christie, 22, Queens
Nkosi Cunningham, 24, Brooklyn
“I applaud El Al Airlines for taking its customer complaints seriously and helping to bring the defendants to justice,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
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