SFO baggage handler accused of stealing from luggage

May 23, 2013 10:11:47 PM PDT
A San Francisco International Airport baggage handler accused of stealing dozens of items from airline passengers' checked bags appeared in a Redwood City courtroom on Wednesday. It took a sting operation to catch the suspected thief-- 45-year-old George Reyes.

For most passengers their worst nightmare is the airline temporarily losing their luggage. But since March, dozens of United Airlines passengers at SFO haven't had missing bags, they've had valuables missing from their bags.

"Things like iPads, cameras, laptops, purses; things that can be easily concealed that have resale value," San Mateo County Assistant DA Al Serrato said.

Reyes, of San Francisco, came under scrutiny after United Airlines received more than 50 complaints from passengers that property was stolen from their luggage, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

In a sting operation on Tuesday, police placed GPS tracking devices on iPads and purses and put the decoy items in checked luggage, according to the district attorney's office. The items were taken from the luggage, and the GPS devices tracked the stolen goods to Reyes' car as he drove home from work, district attorney's officials said. Prosecutors said a subsequent search of Reyes' home turned up more stolen property.

Reyes has been charged with grand theft embezzlement and possessing stolen property.

United released a statement saying, "We hold our employees to the highest standard and have zero tolerance for any theft... This employee is suspended while the case is being reviewed."

Some passengers say the flying public needs to take some responsibility to protect themselves from thieves.

"Anything like a laptop computer, iPad, they should carry on with them because people are who they are unfortunately, one passenger said.

The judge reduced his bail from $150,000 to $50,000, and Reyes has since posted bail and been released, prosecutors said. He will return to court on June 5 for further arraignment.

Bay City News contributed to this report.


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