TSA agent steals $200K worth of gear, resells it on eBay

Yahoo! Tech | October 14, 2008
By Christopher Null

The TSA reached a mind-boggling new low in customer service this week when it was revealed that one agent had single-handedly absconded with over $200,000 worth of travelers' belongings, primarily cameras and laptops, and proceeded to unload his booty on eBay. His latest haul: A near-$50,000 camera that an HBO employee had been traveling with.

The culprit is one Pythias Brown, a New Jersey resident who worked in the TSA department at Newark Liberty Airport. Finally busted, police discovered an inventory of 66 cameras, 31 laptops, assorted jewelry, and more when they searched his home. How'd he finally get caught? Brown snagged a camera belonging to CNN, and they found it for sale on eBay, where Brown had been converting the gear into cash.

Brown's been doing a great job of it too, with a near-perfect feedback rating on eBay.

Of note: Brown appears to have been taking items from checked luggage in the back rooms of the airport, not carry-ons. (One has to imagine you'd notice your $50,000 camera was missing after it came off the x-ray line.) But since consumers are no longer allowed to lock their luggage (or, at least, the TSA is allowed to break those locks as it sees fit), travelers have no real means of protection when it comes to guarding against inside job thievery like this.

What do you do if you need to get something expensive from point A to point B but can't carry it on the plane? Advance shipping through FedEx and the like seems like the only real solution: At least with shipping carriers you can insure the package against damage and theft. But sadly, your contract with the airlines absolves them of virtually all liability when things like this happen.

Another good reason to ship instead of check a bag? Given that airlines now charge up to a whopping $250 for a checked bag, it may now actually be cheaper to have FedEx pick up your stuff at your house and drop it at your destination. How's that for progress?