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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Convicted TSA agent who stole more than $800K from passengers says stealing from bags is ‘very’ common

TSA screener Pythias Brown

A former TSA agent who spent three years in prison for stealing from passengers' luggage says the practice is “commonplace.”

Pythias Brown admits to stealing more than $800,000 worth of cash, clothing and electronics over a four-year period at Newark Liberty International Airport. He was finally caught trying to sell a stolen CNN camera on eBay.

"It became so easy, I got complacent," Brown told ABC News.

Though Brown says he might have been one of the biggest thieves at the Transportation Security Administration, he believes the agency has a culture of entitlement — and of looking the other way.

“It was so easy. One day I walked out of there with the video game, the Nintendo Wii. I walked right out of the checkpoint with the Nintendo Wii in my hand,” he said.

TSA agents on the take justify their actions, he explained.

“They aren’t paying me, they’re treating me wrong. They’re doing this and they’re doing that. And they just don’t care,” he said of some of his former colleagues.

Nearly 400 TSA officers have been fired for stealing since 2003, according to the agency, which is charged with providing security for passengers and freight.

But Brown says the fired TSA officers might be the tip of the iceberg.

Theft “was very commonplace. Very,” he said.

Lax oversight only adds to the problem.

“They [TSA managers] never searched our bags, they never searched us. Nothing.”

He said most of the valuable items are taken out of carry-on bags that pass through screenings and X-ray machines while their owners make their way through security checkpoints and metal detectors.

Two former TSA agents at New York's Kennedy Airport, Persad Coumar, 44, and Davon Webb, 31, were sentenced to six months in jail this year for blatantly making off with a bag full of cash.

Persad was working an airport X-ray machine when he spotted the $40,000, which belonged to a drug mule.

Critics of the TSA say the alleged culture of theft comes as little surprise.

"TSA is probably the worst personnel manager that we have in the entire federal government," Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told ABC.

"It is an outrage to the public and, actually, to our aviation security system.”

Brown, who was convicted in 2009 and just released from prison, said he’s coming forward to help make up for his crimes.

“I want to give back. To help ... help people understand you have to be very careful when you have your items in your bag.”

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