(LOS ANGELES) — A TSA employee working in a Los Angeles airport could become the 382nd worker fired from the security agency for allegedly stealing from travelers, a years-long problem highlighted in a recent ABC News investigation.
Los Angeles police released a statement late Friday saying a passenger came to the authorities after he said money had been taken out of his wallet while he was going through airport security at Los Angeles International Airport. After a brief investigation, police arrested 47-year-old TSA employee Clyde Reese for the alleged theft.
As of Friday, the TSA said Reese would be removed from screening duties and could be fired should wrongdoing be proven, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. Reese was reportedly booked in Los Angeles on a misdemeanor theft charge.
The alleged theft occurred just a day after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) called on the TSA to strengthen its internal anti-theft policies in response to the ABC News investigation.
As part of the investigation, ABC News tracked an iPad that was purposefully left behind at an airport security checkpoint to the home of a TSA agent who was later fired for the alleged theft. That officer was the 381st TSA employee fired for alleged theft since the agency’s founding a decade ago, the TSA said.
Another former TSA employee, Pythias Brown, served three years in prison for theft and said he stole approximately $800,000 worth of cash and merchandise from travelers before he was caught.
“It was very commonplace, very,” Brown told ABC News. “It was very convenient to steal… [TSA agents] didn’t think it was okay, but they did it and said, ‘I don’t care. They ain’t paying me. They’re treating me wrong.’ But when people started seeing they could profit off of it, then it became massive.”
In response to ABC News’ original report, the TSA provided a statement that said it has a “zero tolerance” policy towards theft and that the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by the TSA.
Still, Schumer wrote a letter to TSA head John Pistole urging the agency to perform its own random sting operations and to randomly screen employees at the end of the work day.
“Most TSA agents are very good, hard-working and conscientious, but there are a few bad apples that spoil the bunch,” Schumer told ABC News. “We have to find them.”
The agency has conducted internal sting operations in the past after allegations of wrongdoing and has caught some officers red-handed, according to court documents. But the stings are only done in response to specific reported problems.
“The TSA has a huge job, but when it comes to the security and safety of people’s valuables, which they entrust to the TSA when they put them on the conveyor belt and go through the inspection, [TSA officials] have to be very, very careful and very, very vigilant,” Schumer said. “Thus far they haven’t done enough and could be doing more.”
In response to Schumer’s letter, the TSA told ABC News in a statement that “ensuring the safety of travelers through a professional workforce is of the highest priority for the TSA.”
“TSA takes allegations of misconduct seriously and will take appropriate corrective action as warranted,” the statement said.
Representatives for the TSA did not immediately return after hours requests for comment for this report.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire