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Kennedy Airport bag handlers accused of stealing from passengers' luggage

An aerial view of Kennedy Airport on April

An aerial view of Kennedy Airport on April 15, 2011. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Seven bag handlers at Kennedy Airport have been charged with stealing electronics, jewelry and other items worth more than $20,000 from checked luggage, Queens prosecutors said Wednesday.

The defendants handled luggage for both international and domestic flights and sold the goods stolen from them to undercover police and pawnshops, according to a news release from the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Among the items stolen from 2012 to 2014 were cellphones, iPads, laptops and jewelry, the release said.

Also taking part in the investigation was Port Authority Chief Security Officer Joseph P. Dunne, the release said.

Those charged are: Khaleed Maynard, 28, of Brooklyn; Sheldon Theodore, 22, of Springfield Gardens, Queens; and Ryan Phillips, 35, of Brooklyn, all of whom worked for Swissport at Terminal 4; also Levi Miller, 47, Romero Hendricks, 30, and Tihafade Esdaile, 29 -- all of Brooklyn and employed by Aircraft Services International Group at Terminal 4; and Keston Austin, 31, of Jamaica, who worked for G.S.I. at Terminal 7.

They were awaiting arraignment at Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, the release said.

If convicted, Theodore, Phillips, Miller, Hendricks and Esdaile face up to 4 years in prison. Maynard and Austin face up to 7 years in prison.

According to the criminal complaints, between March 2012 and June 2014, the defendants stole Apple iPads, iPhones and MacBook computers; Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets; Dell, Toshiba and ASUS laptops; and other electronic items, as well as a pair of two-carat diamond-and-gold earrings. The complaint said the items were taken from passengers' checked luggage, and all but two of the defendants are alleged to have contacted a "fence," who actually was an undercover police officer.

The defendants named their prices, set up meetings on airport grounds or nearby, and even made promises about other items that they could steal, the complaint said.

The items were allegedly taken from the suitcases of passengers traveling through Terminals 4 and 7 going to or coming from Japan, Hawaii, Johannesburg, London, Bangkok, Dubai and Milan, as well as cities within the United States.

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