Long Beach Airport Sting Nets Alleged Robber

LONG BEACH — The closets were piled high. There were a couple of All-Star jerseys worn by Indian Pacers forward Ron Artest in February games, dozens of top-of-the-line electronics including PDAs, DVD players, MP3 players, and a huge assortment of designer handbags, clothes and fancy perfumes. Nothing unusual about that, except police say none of it belonged to the Paramount man who was arrested at his home after police set up a sting that netted more than $200,000 in property stolen from the luggage of American Airlines’ customers flying out of Long Beach Airport.

Long Beach burglary detectives became suspicious after seeing a spike in thefts reported by passengers leaving Long Beach Airport on American flights starting in August. A sting operation was put together by airport police, with the help of the airline, using a decoy bag laced with wires.

“When he opened the bag, the sensor went off and we went in and got him,” said Sgt. Steve Laing, of the Long Beach Police Department.

High-dollar digital cameras, personal digital assistants, hand-held video games, MP3 players, jewelry, designer handbags, perfumes, shoes and clothing were lifted from luggage after it was loaded into the bellies of American planes flying out of Long Beach to cities across the country, investigators said.

And the victims hailed from as far away as New York and Japan.

Police suspect there are many victims who never filed a police report, so authorities will display some of the stolen items today at a press conference and then put the goods on view for the public to peruse on Monday and Tuesday, said Sgt. Paul LeBaron, a Long Beach Police spokesman.

American Airlines officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday.

While inside the planes, a thief had time to open luggage and look for expensive gadgets, accessories and clothing, which he would allegedly sneak out in his pockets, Laing said.

By Tracy Manzer
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram