These airline workers allegedly helped themselves to the beverage cart — and then some.
In a massive investigation dubbed "Operation Last Call," 18 workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport were arrested today for their roles in a theft ring that netted $750,000 worth of mini liquor bottles, the Queens district attorney said.
It's the largest theft bust at the airport in more than ten years, according to the Queens DA.
FJC Security Services Inc., a security company that monitors the perimeter and checkpoints at JFK, told Metro they learned in 2011 that a security guard they employed was committing serious violations.
Instead of firing the guard, authorities asked her to wear a wire. She become a secret informant in an investigation that led to the discovery of a large-scale thieving operation. A ring of 18 people who worked at the airport, including security guards and truck drivers, stole more than 100,000 mini bottles of liquor, and duty-free liquor, perfume, and cartons of cigarettes out of planes and storage facilities at the airport.
The workers are accused of then selling the pilfered merchandise.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, joined by Port Authority of NY and NJ Inspector General Robert E. Van Etten at a press conference Wednesday, stressed that the theft ring eluded to a serious security concern at the airport.
"Perhaps more troubling is that airport security personnel entrusted with guarding against theft and maintaining security at the airport were allegedly involved in the scheme," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. "If a terrorist wanted to breach airport security, the alleged actions of these defendants gave then a back-door opportunity to do so."
Among the 18 people busted in the ring were three security guards and fifteen present and former truck drivers employed by Sky Chef, the food and beverage subsidiary for American Airlines.
Investigators said Sky Chef employees would remove unsold mini bottles of booze off planes' beverage carts. They would then bribe security guards with liquor to allow them to pass checkpoints with the loot.
According to officials, the defendants would then sell the mini bottles of liquor for between 55 cents and $1.25 to people outside the airport.
The 18 defendants are facing charges including bribe receiving, receiving a reward for official misconduct, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.