LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Eleven people have been charged with the theft of passenger property at Los Angeles International Airport, prosecutors said on Friday, including a baggage screener accused of stealing a $100,000 watch from Paris Hilton’s bag.
The suspects, who also included two U.S. Transportation Security Administration screeners charged with taking a $7,000 watch belonging to R&B singer Keyshia Cole, were arrested as part of a crackdown on crime at the airport.
Prosecutors say George Penaranda, a 27-year-old TSA screener, was spotted by a co-worker taking a Paris Hilton Limited Edition watch from the hotel heiress’s bag, slipping it into his glove and then his pocket in May of 2006.
Penaranda replaced the watch, which was valued at $100,000, after he realized that he had been observed, City Attorney’s spokesman Frank Mateljan said. He was charged with grand theft and faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if he is convicted.
Screeners Qualonda Matthews, 32, and Millicent Pounds, 49, were charged with one count of grand theft, one count of misappropriation of property and one count of conspiracy.
Prosecutors say that after Cole left her $7,000 watch behind at a security checkpoint, Matthews and Pounds took it from the airport’s lost property section and ultimately sold it in Las Vegas.
The eight other people charged included five TSA screeners, two employees of an airport subcontractor and a transient.
The crackdown is the result of a task force involving nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies, including the city attorney’s office, Los Angeles Police Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the TSA.