Some airport screeners have sticky fingers, documents show

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Some airport screeners have sticky fingers, documents show

Unread post by bimjim » Thu Sep 15, 2011 ... 71661.html

Some airport screeners have sticky fingers, documents show
By Andrew McIntosh and Kinia Adamczyk QMI Agency
14 September, 2011

MONTREAL - The way Denis Bouffard remembers it, all he did was slip his hand into passengers' plastic bins at the airport security checkpoint where he worked and swipe a little spare change.

A uniformed airport security screening officer, Bouffard's job was to protect Canadian airline passengers from terrorists trying to sneak onto jets after the 9/11 attacks. Instead, Bouffard was robbing travellers.

A loonie here. A toonie there. Just enough, he later claimed, to buy a coffee during his breaks at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport.

But his uniformed colleagues told a different story, one Canadian authorities have never told the unsuspecting travelling public about.

Over an eight-month period, two colleagues said they watched with incredulity and shock as Bouffard directed passengers to walk through airport X-ray screening and metal detector machines before he then snatched coins and wallets from the bins when their backs were turned.

In seconds, he'd grab $20 bills and other cash and stuff it all into his pockets. Then, he'd calmly push the bins through the X-ray machine, even as surveillance cameras rolled above him.

A QMI Agency investigation found that Bouffard may have robbed hundreds - possibly thousands - of unwitting travellers in Montreal in 2001 and 2002.

Bouffard later told authorities that other screeners also robbed passengers.

Oversight was so lax, Bouffard said, he and other rogue screeners didn’t bother to hide their thefts from security cameras. A Quebec Public Security department official, after interviews with police and others, wrote a pre-sentencing report backing his claims.

The Montreal thefts are part of a little-known, national problem at Canada’s airports.

Canadians and foreigners using airports across the country have reported thefts of money, jewelery and other valuables , according to hundreds of pages of heavily censored reports obtained from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) under the Access to Information Act.

CATSA, a Crown corporation, oversees pre-flight passenger screening at the country's airports, but contracts out screening jobs to private security companies.

That’s who Bouffard worked for until a fellow screener finally went to police.

Documents show Bouffard robbed passengers during a period of at least eight months before he was caught. He wasn't fired. His employer, Securite Kolossal (now owned by Garda), let him resign for "health reasons."

He pleaded guilty to theft and was fined $572. No passenger-victims were notified.

Court documents didn’t even name the airport as the crime location.

Bouffard denied stealing from hundred or thousands of passengers. He declined to give names of other screeners who robbed travellers.

Bouffard is gone, but passenger complaints about cash thefts at Trudeau Airport continue:

In 2009, two men alleged cash thefts from wallets, one for $370, the second for $50. In 2010, a third passenger flying to Miami reported a $1,500 U.S. currency theft.

CATSA spokeswoman Suzanne Perseo said screeners robbing passengers at checkpoints is an "extremely rare" event. Security companies Garda and Aerogard say the same.

CATSA says three screeners have lost their jobs at Canadian airports since 2008 for "professional misconduct relating to theft. ‘’ It won’t release details.

Perseo also said CATSA has logged only 29 theft allegations against screening officers since 2005 and screens 50 million passengers a year.

Those same federal officials were also unaware of any criminal prosecutions, like Bouffard’s.

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Think you’ve been robbed by a Canadian airport security screener?

Call Andrew McIntosh, investigations desk editor at the QMI Agency. He can be reached at 514-290-0922 OR 514-380-1884.

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