Frequent travelers have a brand-new reason to be suspicious of what’s likely to be one of their least-favorite government-run entities.
According to multiple reports, two Transportation Security Administration agents will be facing charges related to thefts of money from bags and purses they were checking after investigators reviewed video at Miami International Airport on June 29.
The video was released earlier this week, USA Today reported.
Originally, three TSA agents were charged in the scheme: Labarrius Williams, 33, Josue Gonzalez, 20, and Elizabeth Fuster, 22.
WFOR-TV reported that arrest affidavits alleged that the airport federal security director at MIA had contacted a detective with Miami-Dade Police regarding thefts reportedly perpetrated by TSA agents at Checkpoint E at the airport.
WSVN-TV, meanwhile, said that the agents were intially removed after a TSA employee followed up on a complaint and watched footage of the agents in action.
3 TSA officers arrested at Miami International Airport for allegedly stealing from passengershttps://t.co/vnzjrsvAZt
— CBS News Miami (@CBSMiami) July 7, 2023
In the video, the three allegedly conspired to distract passengers going through security screening while their money was being stolen.
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“After watching surveillance video provided by TSA, the detective saw Fuster, Williams and Gonzalez remove $600 from a passenger’s wallet while they were being screened, the affidavits stated. Additionally, all three were seen on ‘several’ other incidents conspiring together to commit more thefts,” WFOR reported.
Gonzalez and Fuster reportedly waived their rights during a formal interview at TSA Command Center and admitted to stealing roughly $1,000 a day while the scheme was going on.
Williams did not waive his rights and didn’t speak to officials. He’s pleaded not guilty and a trial hearing is set for Oct. 23.
Video released by officials appears to show how the sleight-of-hand worked:
And this was happening right under everyone’s noses, apparently with very few noticing until it was too late.
The case against Fuster was dropped and Gonzalez will enter a deferred prosecution program for charges of grand theft. If he complies with the terms of the program, charges against him will be dropped.
Williams, meanwhile, is still set to go to trial facing charges of grand theft.
In a statement, the TSA said the obvious — TL;DR, this isn’t what they encourage.
“The Transportation Security Administration holds its Transportation Security Officers to the highest professional and ethical standards and has no tolerance for misconduct in the workplace,” an emailed statement from the agency said.
“We actively and aggressively investigated these allegations of misconduct and presented our findings to (the Miami-Dade Police Department), and are working closely with them. Any employee who fails to meet our fundamental ethical standards is held accountable.”
The problem is that, even when its officers are meeting what the TSA defines as the “highest professional and ethical standards,” things are still not going particularly smoothly at airport security.
According to an August report from The Wall Street Journal, new scanners deployed by the agency are making for significantly longer wait times, with a record number of travelers to boot; “TSA officials now recommend travelers get to the airport two to three hours before flights,” the outlet reported.
Meanwhile, in May, a TSA canine handler was removed from his duties after footage appeared to show him acting abusively toward a dog:
WARNING: Some viewers may find the following video to be disturbing.
This TSA agent is unfit to handle a dog. pic.twitter.com/A1dGdzpA4a
— Catch Up (@CatchUpFeed) May 8, 2023
It’s little wonder, then, that travelers aren’t necessarily thrilled with the job being done by the men and women charged with keeping us safe from terrorists and other bad actors.
Perhaps it’s because good news isn’t news. The majority of TSA agents don’t engage in behavior like this, obviously. However, when you add theft and canine abuse to Sisyphean wait lines for what amounts to security theater, incidents like this become emblematic of why Americans don’t trust the people entrusted with keeping our skies safe.