Talk about a major nip slip.
Eighteen JFK airport workers are accused of stealing 100,000 mini bottles of booze. At a worth of $750,000, this is no petty crime.
Queens DA Richard Brown announced the arrests including fifteen present and former truck drivers employed by Sky Chef, and three security guards. The investigation into the thefts was dubbed, what else, "operation last call."
In the press release District Attorney Brown said, “The defendants are alleged to have pilfered over the past five months more than three-quarters of a million dollars worth of mini bottles of liquor and duty-free merchandise from Kennedy Airport for subsequent sale in the local underground economy. Employee pilferage is a significant problem for many companies, not just at the 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.”
Operation last call included an undercover investigation that conducted extensive surveillance of the defendants. According to the Gothamist, agents made 57 undercover buys of over 57,000 min-bottles of liquor.
The group apparently made the thefts using Sky Chef employees who were supposed to bring any unsold merchandise from an American Airlines aircraft back to a storage facility on the airport grounds. Instead, the employees would skim a few bottles off the top, completing their theft in a slow and concise manner.
Although it may seem like a quirky theft, Brown is quick to note that in a post 9/11 world, the complacency and involvement of the airport security guards is troubling.
“Perhaps more troubling is that airport security 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 then a back-door opportunity to do so.”
Inspector General Van Etten added, “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 also were involved in selling out their positions of trust to line their pockets.”