TSA agent at Newark airport stole from passengers

Continental EliteAccess line at Terminal C of Newark International Airport

NEW JERSEY: A supervisory transportation security officer at Newark International Airport has pleaded guilty to taking bribes and stealing thousands of dollars in cash and other valuables from unsuspecting travelers, mostly non-English speakers, many of them of Indian origin, during security screenings at the airport.

Michael Arato, 41, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer, admitted to taking bribes from a subordinate officer, who stole between $10,000 and $30,000 over the course of a year.

US Attorney Paul J. Fishman said Arato of Ewing, N.J., pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Jose L. Linares to information charging him with accepting bribes.

The crooked TSA supervisor was busted last fall after the subordinate, who was not named, worked with authorities to videotape him taking his cut during a three-week period, from Sept 13 to Oct 5, authorities said.
Arato also admitted stealing from passengers at his own checkpoint at Newark airport’s Terminal B.

According to the original complaint, authorities became suspicious after receiving several complaints from passengers on Air India’s daily nonstop flight to India that money and valuables from their carry-on bags had gone missing after TSA employees at Arato’s checkpoint had searched them by hand.

The victims were mostly women of Indian descent who did not speak English, the complaint said.

The charge to which Arato pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for May 24, 2011.

US Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory K. Null for the Northeast Region, and detectives and officers of the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, under the direction of Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

India Post News Service

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