Passenger’s Apple Watch Tracks Down Airport Baggage Thief

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A former employee at an airport terminal shop is facing prison time, thanks to a Spirit Airlines passenger’s Apple watch. College student Paola Garcia had packed her jewelry, designer clothes, computer and two Apple watches in her pink rolling carry-on bag but was asked to check it due to overstuffed overhead bins. When she arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) on March 3, she said she waited patiently at Terminal 4 baggage claim, but her bag didn’t show.

Spirit told her the bag would turn up and they would send it to her home, but the next day, she noticed that the tracking function of one of her Apple watches was showing it was at a residential house in Fort Lauderdale. She called the phone number at the house, but got no response, so she drove to the location. (Sanity Alert: DO NOT DO THIS!) She took photos and video of several pieces of luggage, then called the police, who said “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

It turns out a resident at the house, Junior Bazile, was found to be a worker at one of the shops at the airport, and he was on duty the day Garcia’s bag went missing. The shop owner turned over surveillance video that showed Bazile rolling a bag matching Garcia’s into a back room, going through it, and removing the computer, watches and other items.

Bazile was arrested and charged with grand theft (stealing items valued at $750 or more) and faces the possibility of five to 30 years in prison. And though the items were presumably recovered, the airline issued Garcia a reimbursement check as a courtesy, though Spirit said it does not believe one of its employees was involved in the theft.

The Broward County Airport Authority (BCAD) noted that all airport employees undergo a criminal background check, adding, “When BCAD is made aware of any illegal activity that may be occurring at FLL, we work closely with the appropriate local and/or federal law enforcement partners to address the matter as swiftly as possible. Please note, passenger bags checked with an airline are under that carrier’s care and responsibility.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

11 COMMENTS

  1. In addition to this story, there appear to be all sorts of holes and logical dysconnects in airport security. I once had airline staff take custody of an item in my baggage which I had declared and the airline accepted because they thought at security that it was a dangerous good (but it wasn’t). Getting it back too a humongous effort because the airline couldn’t seem to figure out where it had gone.

    And then the end of the baggage travel experience seems bizarre too. The security of the bag, including ensuring that it matches a travelling passenger happens until the last airline staff member tosses it on the baggage claim bag. Then, from a passenger perspective, its a matter of “pick a bag, any bag.” It sometimes surprises me that there aren’t more cases of theft and ‘disappearances.’

    • Yeah, I also think it’s strange that the airline doesn’t make us show our bag tag before we take our bag at the baggage claim.

      I get that there are security cameras in the baggage area, but that doesn’t really prevent the crime.

  2. If a worker at one of the shops at the airport has access to baggage, then the real story here is that there IS NO SECURITY for baggage that can get onto a flight. This guy is not the problem, he just showed how huge the security hole is.

  3. The statement that bags are the airlines responsibility may be legally correct, but is factually wrong and should be challenged in court. You check a bag and it goes on the rubber highway, being directed by barcode and “gates” to (hopefully) the correct baggage cart/ULD. During that trip the bag is in the possession of the airport authority not the airline. The handling belts are known to misdirect, bags simply fall off, sometimes they simply fail. But they make the airline responsible 100%.
    This shows that airports are responsible – in this case a worker intercepted the bag most likely behind the scenes (ie not off the baggage belt).
    Gutsy gal to go to a house of a thief. Dangerous in this day & age where guns abound.

    • “During that trip the bag is in the possession of the airport authority not the airline.”

      Not always true. At some airports (including the one I work at), the airline (or a consortium of airlines) maintain and operate the terminal they operate from, to include expenses associated with the terminal’s baggage handling system. So it’s the contractor that the airline(s) hire who provide the employees, not the airport.

      And then there’s involvement by TSA employees, who monitor the baggage screening devices and open up bags with suspicious items.

  4. Why are we telling thieves how we managed to catch them? Simply have the police show up at their door, and arrest them. The next bad guy might ditch the watch in a river, and keep the jewelry – let it remain a mystery how the police find the bad guy.

    • The FindMy app included with Apple devices is well known. The perp was just too stupid to realize he could be caught with that technology.

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