In the past, I’ve written about theft from passengers’ bags by baggage handlers in Indian airports, and the mysterious chalk marks used by customs officials to mark certain bags for special treatment.
Little did I know that singling out NRIs for stealing from their bags is an international practice. According to this news article, Michael Arato, a TSA official in Newark airport was found guilty of stealing cash and other valuables from travelers. Apparently, Arato and his subordinate would steal the cash from bags during X-ray screening, and sometimes subject their intended victims’ carry on bags for additional screening so they could pocket the cash.
Here is where it gets interesting:
According to the original complaint, authorities became suspicious after receiving several complaints from passengers on Air India’s daily nonstop flight to India that money and valuables from their carry-on bags had gone missing after TSA employees at Arato’s checkpoint had searched them by hand.
The victims were mostly women of Indian decent (sic) who did not speak English, the complaint said.
What is even more interesting (and hilarious) is how Arato tries to justify his actions:
Arato was caught on tape explaining his action by saying that the travelers were leaving the country with “our money,” ABC reported.
Now, if only our Indian baggage handlers could come up with a similar justification.