More Arrests Possible in Alleged LAX Baggage-Theft Operation: Police

An investigation into the widespread theft of property from Los Angeles International Airport passengers’ luggage led to six arrests amid a police raid that began Wednesday evening and continued Thursday.

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An LAX baggage theft investigation led to the arrest of six people. (Credit: KTLA)

An LAX Joint Crime Task Force detained 14 people, and arrested six, four for receiving stolen property and two for outstanding warrants, a Los Angeles Police Department news release stated.

The number of arrests could increase as the investigation continues, according to LAX police Sgt. Belinda Nettles, who said undercover officers had been working on reported thefts around the clock.

High-end electronics, clothing and jewelry were recovered, police said Thursday morning.

“Basically everything of value, be it electronics, jewelry and items that could be stolen, in seconds would be removed from bags,” airport police Chief Patrick Gannon said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They’d just open up the suitcases and rifle through them and pocket valuables.”

Thieves stole from checked baggage in baggage areas and from luggage aboard aircraft, police said.

The total value amount of the goods stolen was not released, nor were the names of any victims.

Detectives planned to work to connect those arrested to specific theft cases, which was expected to clear some of the open theft investigations, according to the release.

The task force, comprised of airport police and LAPD detectives, recovered numerous items during the arrests and the service of 25 search warrants during a Wednesday operation, according to an earlier news release issued by Los Angeles Airport Police and LAPD.

The thefts were connected to current or former employees of companies contracted by airlines to provide baggage-handling services, authorities said.

The suspects underwent employment and criminal background checks before being authorized to work at LAX, Gannon said in a statement.

“It’s a disappointment, but a fact of life, that sometimes a few people will succumb to the temptations at LAX,” Gannon said. “The actions of these few do not represent the nearly 45,000 individuals who work for the nearly 350 employers at LAX.”

The number of reported thefts from checked baggage represents a small fraction of the nearly 54.7 million pieces of luggage that passengers check annually at the airport, he said.

KTLA’s Ashley Soley-Cerro, John A. Moreno and Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.