NYC Cocaine-Smuggling Case Turns Up Much Airline Baggage Theft


The ringleader of a cocaine-smuggling group arrested by federal authorities was Victor Bourne, a low-wage baggage handler for American Airlines at Kennedy International Airport, reports the New York Times. His associates were other airline employees: baggage handlers and crew chiefs who delivered contraband while they delivered luggage to the baggage-claim area.

Testimony at Bourne's trial showed a culture of corruption among some baggage handlers at Kennedy. They stowed drugs in secret panels inside planes; stole laptops, lobsters and fine clothing flown as freight; and rifled through passengers' belongings for perfume, liquor, and electronics. ” 'Everybody did it.' That's a line that a lot of the witnesses said,” recalled Rebecca Grefski, a juror. When a prosecutor asked defendant Matthew James, who pleaded guilty, what percent of American Airlines employees took part in baggage theft, he said 80 percent.

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