Airport screeners admit theft
A pair of TSA workers say they took $20,000 from luggage in a plot with their co-workers
Two Honolulu airport screeners have admitted to stealing about $20,000 in American and foreign currency from luggage at Honolulu Airport and sharing the proceeds with other screeners.
Transportation Security Administration employees Benny S. Arcano, 27, and Christopher Cadorna, 25, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren to converting property in excess of $1,000 that belonged to others while in the course of their duties.
Under a plea agreement, they have agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation that appears to involve at least two other TSA screeners. Arcano and Cadorna face maximum penalties of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution as ordered by the court. They were allowed to remain free yesterday pending their July 17 sentencing after signing a $20,000 signature bond.
His voice wavering, Arcano, who had been working for TSA for 3 1/2 years, described what he did on March 4, 2005. "I was checking a bag and came across an envelope, took the envelope and then continued searching the bag, cleared the bag and put it on the conveyor belt," he said.
Defense attorney William Domingo said later that Arcano, who has no prior criminal record, is very remorseful and sorry for his actions. He also realizes the potential impact his actions could have on Hawaii's economy.
"It's something that just happened, and when everyone gets involved, until someone gets caught, it keeps going on," Domingo said. "He was telling me the whole time he felt bad about what he was doing."
Domingo said he will ask that Arcano, who has a wife and two children, including a 2-week-old daughter, be placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution.
Cadorna, a TSA employee for 2 1/2 years, also admitted to similar conduct. "I was employed by TSA in charge of searching bags, and on a few occasions I noticed money and took money and shared it with other screeners," he said when asked by the judge what he did.
The scheme, which prosecutors say appeared to have been going on for about a year beginning in March 2004, apparently unraveled on March 4, 2005, after a Honolulu airport employee witnessed Arcano removing an envelope from checked-in luggage while searching for prohibited items.
When confronted, Arcano admitted to taking the yen, valued at $1,800, and also implicated Cadorna.
According to a plea agreement, Arcano and Cadorna admitted to exchanging stolen yen at an exchange outlet in Waikiki and sharing the proceeds with other TSA screeners. They estimated they took a total of $20,000.
Both were placed on indefinite suspension after their admissions and have since left TSA. Both are now working in the construction industry.
Pamela Tamashiro, court-appointed attorney for Cadorna, said her client immediately cooperated with authorities after they confronted him about his involvement. "He told me repeatedly he accepts full responsibility and feels really bad about what he did."
U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said these types of crimes will be dealt with seriously because they hurt Hawaii's image as a popular tourist destination.