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Beware: TSA Workers Steal Money From Travelers

[I guess feeling us up wasn’t enough]…You’d think your personal possessions and money would be safe around security workers, but apparently they’re not. A TSA employee at Newark Liberty International Airport confessed on Monday that he actually stole money from passengers who went through his security checkpoint, and he accepted bribes and kickbacks for looking the other way while a co-worker did the same thing.

Foreigners targeted
Michael Arato, a 41-year-old who supervised a security checkpoint in the airport’s Terminal B, admitted that he and his colleague deliberately targeted foreigners who could not speak much English — in particular, Indian women on their way home after visiting relatives in the United States.

“Arato literally made a game of stealing hundreds of dollars a day from individuals standing in the security lane. That he targeted them based on their inability to speak English is especially offensive,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in a statement.

It wasn’t uncommon for Arato to lift $400 to $700 per shift from the wallets, purses and carry-ons he inspected. He would then hide the cash in X-ray machine drawers, explosive detection machines, and the lost and found container until the coast was clear to take it away.

A conspiracy
When passengers began to complain, videotape surveillance of the station was set up, and the TSA employees were documented committing the offenses, as well as staging a theft competition and talking about how they didn’t feel bad about ripping off foreign passengers because they were leaving the United States with “our money.”

Arato was in cahoots with one other worker, and would pretend he didn’t notice when that worker also lifted cash from passengers. In return for his inattention, the colleague would give Arato a cut. He admitted to receiving as much as $3,100 in one week this way.

Interestingly enough, it was that unnamed co-worker who arranged a deal with authorities and blew the whistle on Arato.

Arato’s sentencing date is May 24.  He could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison and $250,000 fine.

This post was originally written by  Lisa Johnson Mandell, for AOL Jobs.  I travel internationally to visit relatives and this is the reason why I never check luggage, I carry a specific amount of cash which never goes into the trays since said cash is nestled safely in a pocket in my bra.  Don’t laugh.  Ask your immigrant grandmother.

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18 thoughts on “Beware: TSA Workers Steal Money From Travelers

  • I am absolutely disgusted by this. We’re treated like suspected terrorists, while the people who are “protecting the country” are blatantly stealing from the people they’re screening? I don’t have clean words to describe how I feel about this. I’m glad the whistle was blown on these guys. Hopefully if there are others they get caught too.

    How large of a pocket do you stitch into your bra?

    • I have to tell you the pocket in the bra story. Back when I owned my own business I would pick things up last minute in the wholesale district in Manhattan. To get the best deals you would need cash. Anyway a Korean vendor said to me one day, “Don’t carry purse. Carry purse get robbed. You put cash here”, indicating my bosom area. I realized that he must know better than I would, plus when you’re out of the country, a pocket or a purse is the first thing to get snatched or emptied. I carry $100 bills and I sew pockets into the area of my bra right where the strap begins. I should manufacture them. I’ve never lost one bill. I do have to say that I do have an ample bosom though. 🙂

  • When police officers, lawyers or people under the badge of authority break the law, they should be punished more than the rest of us. Further, these particular TSAs targeted certain vulnerable people which I think is worse. I hope they serve all 15 years

    • Agreed. They have stomped all over public trust. This is why people like me object to TSA screenings where they essentially can see you naked or get to touch my body in an a way that I would never allow any stranger. No one can tell me that someone isn’t going to enjoy their job a little too much. These idiots preyed on who they thought would be the least likely to be believed if they were brave enough to lodge a complaint. I hope they get what they deserve.

  • These people are supposedly protecting us from terrorists and they prey on us? Are we safe anywhere? Shouldn’t be too surprised though, corruption is everywhere. Sad, sad commentary on humanity.

  • That’s really unfortunate, no doubt about it. People that are supposed to protecting us that actually TAKE from us? What a joke. The good news is that this isn’t a common thing and there are bad apples everywhere, really.

    The bigger issue here is the topic of traveling safely and keeping valuables protected. The more something is out of your possession, the more room there is for some rogue worker to take your property.

    Your idea in the comments above is probably a good idea, for the ladies anyway! There’s a business opportunity right there!

  • That’s really unfortunate, no doubt about it. People that are supposed to protecting us that actually TAKE from us? What a joke. The good news is that this isn’t a common thing and there are bad apples everywhere, really.

    The bigger issue here is the topic of traveling safely and keeping valuables protected. The more something is out of your possession, the more room there is for some rogue worker to take your property.

    Your idea in the comments above is probably a good idea, for the ladies anyway! There’s a business opportunity right there!

  • Thanks for posting this Sandy. The more visibility, the more PO’d people there will be at these “highly trained” security people stomping all over the 4th amendment. This is just one guy in one location. I wonder how many there are at other locations who haven’t been caught yet. My money stays in my wallet, which is with me at all times.

  • Thanks for posting this Sandy. The more visibility, the more PO’d people there will be at these “highly trained” security people stomping all over the 4th amendment. This is just one guy in one location. I wonder how many there are at other locations who haven’t been caught yet. My money stays in my wallet, which is with me at all times.

  • This is obviously a bad case. But… I feel like this is still a pretty isolated instance and my guess is that this is a lot less common then other workers in other industries that have access to your personal items.

    That might be due to the amount of video cameras etc that are at the airport too. Again, I just wanted to play devil’s advocate.

    The one thing that I can’t stand is the general rudeness from airport staff and customs people. I understand you have a job to do but that doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk. Probably the worst airport is my hometown airport too… if you’ve flown into Vancouver then you know what I mean. Great post… thanks!

  • I would believe that this type of thing is probably more common that we’d like to believe. Afer all, who is watching the watchers?

    No worries, the TSA will be unionized soon, and they’ll all be on strike half the time, so they won’t have as much of a chance to take your money. 🙂

  • I would believe that this type of thing is probably more common that we’d like to believe. Afer all, who is watching the watchers?

    No worries, the TSA will be unionized soon, and they’ll all be on strike half the time, so they won’t have as much of a chance to take your money. 🙂

  • Ya know I’ve always wondered what they do with all those items that people can’t take onto the plane? This guy had a pretty aggressive retirement plan if you’re asking me! Does anyone have a rough estimate of how much this guy or group of people made over the length of this scheme?

  • Ya know I’ve always wondered what they do with all those items that people can’t take onto the plane? This guy had a pretty aggressive retirement plan if you’re asking me! Does anyone have a rough estimate of how much this guy or group of people made over the length of this scheme?

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