More skycaps arrested for endangering flights
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Police have arrested several additional airport skycaps working out of Miami International Airport accused of taking passengers for a ride and endangering everyone in the air.
According to Miami-Dade Police, the skycaps were pocketing cash from passengers while under-reporting the amount of luggage loaded onto American Airline flights at MIA. Nine skycaps were arrested early Wednesday; however, later on in the day, police made even more arrests. According to authorities, as many as 50 people may have been involved in the scam, and they expect to arrest even more suspects in the coming days. "Clearly, this was a systematic, ongoing course of contact with one purpose: to defraud this airline and defraud the passengers that are traveling," said Miami-Dade Police Detective Roy Rutland.
According to investigators, they received information regarding several skycaps employed by Eulen American Corporation, a subcontracted company of American Airlines, charging passengers for fees and pocketing some of the cash for themselves. Rutland said, "Investigators did receive intelligence, provided them information that these individual skycaps were in fact committing this kind of fraud at Miami International Airport."
The organized scheme was first reported to police by American Airlines's Corporate Security. Questions arose when a mysterious package aboard an American Airlines plane from MIA wound up in Latin America. "That bag did not have a passenger assigned to the bag. That is what began this investigation," Rutland said.
The nine-month investigation revealed that the skycaps would charge the passengers for luggage and overweight fees, then waive these fees in their computer system but keep the total waived amount. Police said the skycaps also allowed unattended bags onto the flights. "What they were doing simply is charging passengers overweight fees for extra luggage. They would input a smaller amount and simply steal the difference," Rutland said. "The sole purpose here was greed."
This would result in inconsistencies and a potential overload of luggage on planes. This caused serious safety issues for flights, as, theoretically, the airlines flew based on inaccurate reports as to the weight of the plane. "That puts people's lives in danger, too. You don't want that to happen, so I think they should have upper management straighten this whole thing out and put a corral on this before something goes bad," one man said.
Police also believed the skycaps had some assistance with the scheme. "Based on the information that I received, we do have ticket agents that were involved, working hand-in-hand with the skycap personnel," said Rutland.
In a statement, American Airlines spokesperson Martha Pantín said: "This investigation was initiated by American Airlines, and we were actively involved throughout, working closely with the Miami-Dade Police Department, which did an excellent job. Although the skycaps arrested are not American Airlines employees, they were contracted to provide service to our passengers on our behalf. We take these matters quite seriously and have no patience for this type of behavior. Any other information should come from the Miami-Dade Police Department since this is now a police matter."
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