Your suitcase has been tagged and whisked away for a TSA security check before being loaded onto a plane en route to your final destination. How safe are the belongings inside? The TSA has fired nearly 400 employees for allegedly stealing from travelers, and for the first time, the agency is revealing the airports where those fired employees worked.
Newly released figures provided to ABC News by the TSA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that, unsurprisingly, many of the country’s busiest airports also rank at the top for TSA employees fired for theft.
Sixteen of the top 20 airports for theft firings are also in the top 20 airports in terms of passengers passing through.
At the head of the list is Miami International Airport, which ranks twelfth in passengers but first in TSA theft firings, with 29 employees terminated for theft from 2002 through December 2011. JFK International Airport in New York is second with 27 firings, and Los Angeles International Airport is third with 24 firings. JFK ranks sixth in passenger traffic, while LAX is third. Chicago, while second in traffic, ranked 20th in theft firings.
The four airports listed in the TSA’s top 20 list of employee firings for theft that aren’t also among the FAA’s top 20 for passenger activity are Salt Lake City International, Washington Dulles, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, and San Diego International.
The top airports across the U.S. for TSA employees fired for theft are:
1. Miami International Airport (29)
2. JFK International Airport (27)
3. Los Angeles International Airport (24)
4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (17)
5. Las Vegas-McCarren International Airport (15)
6. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and New York-Laguardia Airport (14 each)
8. Newark Liberty, Philadelphia International, and Seattle-Tacoma International airports (12 each)
11. Orlando International Airport (11)
12. Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport (10 each)
14. Washington Dulles International Airport (9)
15. Detroit Metro Airport and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (7)
17. Boston-Logan International, Denver International and San Diego International airports (6)
During a recent ABC News investigation, an iPad left behind at a security checkpoint at the Orlando airport was tracked as it moved 30 miles away to the home of the TSA officer last seen handling it.
Confronted two weeks later by ABC News, the TSA officer, Andy Ramirez, at first denied having the missing iPad, but ultimately turned it over after blaming his wife for taking it from the airport. Ramirez was later fired by the TSA.
The iPad was one of ten purposely left behind at TSA checkpoints at major airports with a history of theft by government screeners, as part of an ABC News investigation into the TSA’s ongoing problem with theft of passenger belongings. The other nine iPads were returned to ABC News after being left behind.
The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by TSA.