The Case of the Missing iPad

ABC News finds nearly 400 TSA screeners fired over alleged theft.
3:00 | 09/27/12

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Transcript for The Case of the Missing iPad
If you've ever lost something at an airport, you probably wondered where that camera or ipod really ended up. Well, tonight, we've got a sting operation that could bring you some answers. Sometimes your favorite shiny toys can end up in the homes of people who screen your baggage. The tsa officers at the security gate. With the help of simple tracking technology and some tempting bait, abc's brian ross brings us this "nightline" investigates. Reporter: This is the tsa security screening checkpoint at terminal b of the airport in orlando, florida. A place where this $600 ipad, belonging to abc news, was left behind, on purpose, and then disappeared. Abc news tape shows it was last seen at the airport in the hands of this tsa officer, andy ramirez. And then, several hours later, we were able to track our I pad using its find me app also it moved away from the airport. Step by step, until it stopped at an address 30 miles away, the home of the same tsa officer, last seen with our ipad. Two weeks later, we showed up to get it back from tsa officer ramirez. Brian ross from abc news. Give me a hand here. We're looking for a missing ipad. Missing ipad? Reporter: Yeah. And the tracking device shows it is located right here at this address. Okay. Reporter: Is it here? No, sir. Reporter: But as you will see, that would turn out to be not true. It's horrible that you would have individualsngaged in this activity, wearing a federal badge, conducting a security check. This is the tip of the iceberg. Reporter: We found case after case of tsa theft in our abc news investigation. Including this tsa officer in memphis, seen at an empty ticket counter, trying to stash a laptop left behind at a security checkpoint. And then, draping a jacket over it and walking away. He was convicted of theft and fired. According to new figures provided to abc news by the tsa, some 381 tsa officers have been fired for theft. 11 this year alone. It was like being on drugs. It was like an addiction that i couldn't shake. Reporter: Addicted to stealing? Yeah, I was like, what am i doing? But the next day, I was right back at it. Reporter: To date, no tsa officer has been caught stealing more than pythias brown. He manned a luggage screening machine at newark and estimates he stole some $800,000 worth of items from passenger luggage in a four-year crime spree. I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag. Reporter: That's what you wanted? Yeah. Reporter: Once you saw that -- I would alarm the bag. Reporter: That gave you the justification to open it? Yes. Reporter: Just out of prison, where he served three years, brown told abc news theft was easy. Part of a culture of indifferences at tsa, whose officers are among the lowest paid employees of the federal government. You knew what you were doing was wrong? Yes. Reporter: But you did it anyway? Yes. Reporter: Why did you do it? Just playing in with the rest of them, of, I don't care and, they ain't treating us right and they're not paying us right. Reporter: Brown showed us the action he used at the airport where he says no one is checked for stolen goods. It was so easy, one day, i walked right out of the checkpoint with a wii in my hand. Reporter: Nobody said anything? Nobody said a word. Reporter: Anybody say "watch yourself?" Yeah, oneentlemen came to me, said, they're talking about you in the office, be careful. I said, okay. Reporter: You got a tipoff? Yeah. Reporter: For passengers who are victims of theft, many find they are on their own when something goes missing. I wasn't happy. And the cold shoulder from the airlines was even more devastating. Reporter: Dallas businessman dirk had to track down his ipad himself after it disappeared from his checked luggage. I was kind of astonished it wasn't but a few miles away from the airport. Reporter: Using the find me app, he tracked his missing ipad to the home of this man. Tsa officer clayton dovo, who authorities say was found with at least five other stolen ipads when he was arrested. The fact he used his position to violate that trust makes it so much worse. Reporter: In our own investigation, involving ten major airporments all with a history of tsa theft, we checked bags with ipads and cash and left behind ipads at tsa checkpoints. All the luage made it past tsa safely. 500 and the ipad. Reporter: And in 9 out of 10 cases, at carry-on che checkpoints -- please come back to the podium. Reporter: Tsa screening officers did exactly what they are trained to do. This is anthony calling from tsa lost and found, department of homeland security. I believe you lost your ipad with us when you flew out today from delta. Reporter: But it with a different story in orlando, where our ipad was last seen in the hands oftsa officer andy ramirez. We waited two weeks before we showed up at his house. The tracking device shows it is located right here at this address. Okay. Reporter: Is it here? No, sir. Reporter: And, again and again, ramirez denied knong anything about the missing ipad. Did you take it? No, sir. Reporter: You did not? No, sir. Reporter: Shortly after we set off an alarm on the ipad, ramirez produced it. You found it? There it is. With his tsa uniform now off, ramirez said it was his wife who had taken the ipad -- come in -- Reporter: I don't want to come in. I want to explain how this ipad left at a tsa screening station ended up in your house. My wife -- Reporter: Your wife? My wife says she got the ipad and brought it home. Reporter: That can't be true. The last time we saw it, it was in your hands. Ramirez was fired late yesterday. Tsa says it has a zero tolerance policy of stealing. The tsa director refused to be interviewed for our report, but in a statement, the agency said the vast majority of its employees are honest, hardworking individuals. But of course, it only takes a few, or, in the case of the tsa, a few hundred, to give everyone a black eye.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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