Thursday, May 12, 2011

To Serve, to Protect Steal

by Spencer Wilking

If TSA workers steal from the people they are supposed to be protecting, how can they be trusted to keep the nation safe from terrorism

The eBay seller known as "Alirla" sold high-priced electronics at rock bottom prices, shipping laptops, digital cameras and GPS units to eager buyers all over the world. Alirla's eBay page was filled with positive comments remarking on the great deals to be had; the few blemishes were minor: "awesome little camcorder, but missing the instructions" or "Item as described, but the video out cable was missing."

The bargain shopping came to an end when "Alirla" was revealed to be Pythias Brown, a 49-year-old TSA screener at Newark Liberty International Airport responsible for the largest one-man theft ring in the short history of the Transportation Security Administration.

For over a year, Brown used his position as a TSA screener to pilfer the bags of airline passengers at will, stealing an estimated $400,000 in goods, according to a federal court complaint. Brown's six-figure eBay fencing operation unraveled when a CNN cameraman discovered his Sony video camera missing from his luggage.

The cameraman logged onto eBay and found his camera listed for sale by Brown's Alirla eBay profile. The ensuing investigation resulted in a raid of Brown's Maplewood, N.J., home, where authorities found 66 cameras, 31 laptop computers and other electronics and jewelry with a total value of more than $200,000. In July 2009, Brown was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

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