Busted: Dodgy Spirit Airlines Baggage Handler Faces Theft Charge

Broward County Sheriffs have arrested a light-fingered Spirit Airlines baggage handler after he allegedly stole items from checked-in luggage. Cush Vengeto was working for Spirit Airlines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport but is now suspended without pay after being arrested at work on Tuesday, January 18.

Busted: Dodgy Spirit Airlines Baggage Handler Faces Theft Charge
Spirit Airlines has suspended a baggage handler after being charged with theft. Photo: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines suspends the charged baggage handler

Spirit Airlines and Broward County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation after passengers began complaining items were missing from their luggage. Neither the airline nor the sheriff’s office specified what went missing. However, police charged Mr Vengeto with one count of theft of more than US$750 and less than $5,000.

As airline heists go, it lacks the dash of the still-at-large crooks who swiped a flight management system from an Arik Air Boeing in Lagos last week.

Spirit Airlines promptly suspended Mr Vengeto and another unnamed employee. The airline says it won’t tolerate such misconduct and an investigation is underway. After posting bail, authorities cut Mr Vengeto loose and he now awaits his court hearing.

Some might say this is a case of double-dipping by Spirit Airlines, which already charges sharp fees upfront to check-in luggage. But Spirit Airlines isn’t the only airline to have had a problem with wayward baggage handlers.

Cush Vengeto was busted after Spirit Airlines and Broward County Sheriffs launched an investigation following passenger complaints about missing luggage items. Photo: Getty Images

Dodgy baggage handlers cause problems across various airlines

It’s not quite picking through your personals, but (now-former) JFK-based Delta Air Lines employee Quincy Thorpe swiped US$258,205 from a cash shipment getting loaded onto a flight to Florida in 2019.

Mr Thorpe was no criminal mastermind. Airport security cameras observed him scanning and loading the eight-bag cash shipment onto the plane. The cameras also saw him fail to scan and load one bag. Instead, he placed it into a nearby vehicle. The FBI turned up on Mr Thorpe’s doorstep a day or so later.

Delta called Mr Thorpe’s behavior unacceptable and, mirroring last week’s statement from Spirit Airlines, said they took the situation seriously and were working with authorities.

Multiple airlines, including Southwest, have had problems with baggage handlers stealing from luggage. Photo: Southwest Airlines

A recurring problem that won’t go away

A former Southwest Airlines baggage handler was after a different sort of cache. In 2020, Mark Hunter, working for Southwest at St Louis Airport, was charged with stealing seven guns over six months from checked-in luggage.

Interestingly, it wasn’t a Southwest-initiated investigation that caught Mr Hunter out. Instead, a joint ATF/TSA investigation ran down Mr Hunter and found a gun in his possession that a passenger had reported missing. From there, things went downhill for the baggage handler. Mr Hunter ended up doing six months jail time.

Not all light-fingered baggage handlers work for airlines. Often airlines outsource the work to contractors at airports. Sarah Loe, who worked for Bags Inc at Salt Lake City Airport until 2019, was charged with theft after a relative dobbed her in.

When police arrived at Ms Loe’s home to check out the claim, they found missing suitcases, bags, backpacks, and boxes. Ms Loe had also filled a nearby storage unit to the brim with either stolen luggage or items taken from luggage.

No airline or airport is immune from crooked employees. Security clearances can only pick up past bad behavior, not predict current or future bad behavior. Cush Vengeto is the latest in a long and ignoble line of dodgy baggage handlers. Unfortunately, until it’s too late, there isn’t much airlines can do to weed them out.

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