A TSA supervisor stole money from passengers who went through his security checkpoint and accepted bribes and kickbacks from a colleague. Michael Arato, a supervisor at Newark Liberty Airport, admitted on Monday that he regularly took money from passengers during security screenings and deliberately targeted foreigners who could not speak much English.
The 41-year-old, from Ewing, admitted in federal court that he permitted a worker he supervised to steal $10,000 to $30,000 in cash from travellerâ€™s bags over a 13-month period. This is nuts! These TSA workers should NOT be trusted with anything valuable! Luckily I have learned the art of carrying-on! Find out the full story after the jump!
[MDLS] – He admitted to collecting $3,100 over one week to â€˜look the other wayâ€™ while his colleague carried out the thefts from travellers.
In return the colleague would give some of the money to Arato, who also admitted to stealing some himself at his security checkpoint in Terminal B.
The colleague, who was not named, cooperated with investigators leading them to the arrest of Arato.
Arato faces a maximum potential sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though the actual penalty may be less under sentencing guidelines. He will be sentenced on May 24.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been trying to crackdown on theft by workers at Newark Liberty International Airport and the TSA said that any time it becomes aware of an employee who might be engaged in illegal activity, it works closely with other agencies to investigate.
The exchanges were caught on videotape over a three-week period, the government said, from September 13 to October 5 last year.
It was believed that as the passengers â€“ mostly foreigners heading home â€“ came through the checkpoint at New Jerseyâ€™s Newark Liberty International Airport, the supervisor and another TSA agent would subject them to secondary searches andÂ take the cash from their carry-on bags.
When Arato was arrested, ABC reported that the pair allegedly targeted predominately non-English speaking victims, including women of Indian descent and nationality who were returning home after visiting the United States.
On a given shift, Arato would pocket approximately $400 to $700 from passengers, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
He said in a statement: â€˜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.â€™
One victim allegedly had $5,000 in cash that she was taking to India for a relative, taken out of her handbag during a search.
The two TSA employees would hide the cash they allegedly stole in X-ray machine drawers, explosive detection machines and the lost and found until it was safe to remove.
The men often targeted an Air India flight that left Newarkâ€™s Terminal B at 6:20pm.
Since August 2009, the TSA and police for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received numerous complaints from passengers on the Air India flight who said money and other valuables in passengersâ€™ carry-on baggage at the B-3 checkpoint.
In response, the Port Authority and Department of Homeland Securityâ€™s inspector generalâ€™s office launched an investigation. The TSA agent who is now cooperating was caught on video cameras stealing but has since assisted the investigators in building a case against Arato.
In six work days in September and two days in October, Arato allegedly accepted $3,100 in bribes that the co-schemer gave him as part of a sting set up by the police.
Video recordings show him accepting money on numerous occasions and on September 29, Arato allegedly took the money and â€˜gave the middle finger to the office security cameraâ€™.
During one recorded conversation, the two TSA agents discussed an on-going competition between them that involved stealing from passengers in the presence of their TSA supervisors.
Another time, the pair discussed how they did not feel bad stealing from foreign passengers who were leaving the country with â€˜our moneyâ€™.
A TSA statement said: â€˜TSA will continue to move swiftly and decisively to terminate any employee who engages in illegal activity on the job.
â€˜The unfortunate choices of a couple of individuals should in no way serve as a reflection on the more than 1,050 security officers at Newark Liberty who conduct themselves with professionalism and integrity and do an outstanding job every day keeping the traveling public safe.â€™