By Rich Bockmann
A pair of southeast Queens residents were among five baggage handlers at JFK Airport who were arrested last week and charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of checks and credit cards that were being mailed overseas, authorities said.
Anthony Austin, 26, of Hollis, and Ariel Weaver, 20, of South Ozone Park, were arrested by Port Authority police March 5 along with three others from Brooklyn for allegedly pocketing checks and credit cards being sent through the U.S. mail, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
“Included among the items allegedly stolen from the mail were money orders mailed by a member of the armed services and, in another instance, checks intended for child support,” Brown said. “When an individual mails an item through the U.S. Postal Service, there is an implicit trust that it will arrive at its intended destination. It is alarming that these defendants were allegedly using U.S. mailbags as grab bags to satisfy their own greed.”
Investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Port Authority police began looking into baggage handlers working for Ground Services International at Terminal 7 after receiving complaints that credit cards, money orders and checks being mailed internationally were being stolen, Brown said.
Between July and February the defendants allegedly pilfered checks and money orders ranging from $100 to $1,000 headed for Japan, China and Korea and deposited them into their own bank accounts, sometimes scribbling their own names over the names of the intended recipients, the DA said.
They are also accused of stealing credit cards and using them to buy gadgets such as iPad minis and Samsung Galaxy tablets from Best Buy kiosks at the airport, Brown said.
All told, the district attorney said, the baggage handlers allegedly stole more than $27,000.
The Post Office’s top sleuth for New York said that when it comes to the mail, there is a zero-tolerance policy for theft.
“Postal inspectors will utilize every resource available to identify those responsible and ensure justice is served,” U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Philip Bartlett said.
Austin was arraigned on two counts of grand larceny and possession of stolen property, while Weaver was arraigned on one count of possessing stolen property, the DA said. Both are due back in court April 2.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.