John F. Kennedy Airport is in the spotlight following the arrest of 18 on-airport staff for the theft of more than US$750,000 worth of small liquor bottles and duty free and travel retail merchandise, bringing into question security in the channel.
Earlier this month, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown (below) and Port Authority of NY & NJ Inspector General Robert Van Etten said that the airport workers had been arrested and charged in connection with the thefts over a period of five months in an investigation dubbed ‘Operation Last Call’. Queens is the New York borough in which JFK is located and PANYNJ is the airport operator.
The 18 workers – 15 present and former truck drivers employed by LSG Sky Chefs [parent company LSG Lufthansa Service Holding headquartered in Neu-Isenburg, Germany-Ed], a food and beverage subcontractor for American Airlines, and three security guards from FJC Security Services, and SCIS Air Security Corporation – are alleged to have pilfered more than 100,000 items including liquor, perfume, and cartons of cigarettes.
The stolen single-serve liquor bottles, usually available for onboard consumption, are alone estimated to have a value of $400,000, and include brands such as Dewars scotch, Absolut vodka, Courvoisier Cognac and Baileys liqueur.
District Attorney Brown comments: “Employee pilferage is a significant problem for many companies, not just at airports but throughout the entire metropolitan area. In the last analysis, however, it is the consuming public that bears the burden of thefts such as those that are alleged to have occurred in this case.
“Perhaps more troubling is that airport personnel entrusted with guarding against theft and maintaining security at the airport were allegedly involved in the scheme. If a terrorist wanted to breach airport security, the alleged actions of these defendants gave them a back-door opportunity to do so.”
Van Etten adds: “The defendants arrested in Operation Last Call violated and sold out their position of trust and access to the secure areas of the airport, including access to commercial aviation, all for personal greed. More egregious, is the conduct of three security guards employed to secure, protect and report crime at JFK International Airport but who were also involved in selling out their positions of trust to line their pockets.”
Inspector General Van Etten continues: “All of these individuals had unfettered access to the secure aeronautical area of the airport and that gives pause for concern that they could have or would have sold out their access and trust for more nefarious or sinister purposes.”
The defendants are variously charged with third-degree bribe receiving, receiving a reward for official misconduct, second-, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny and second-, third- and fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property.