This week, the Blotter is reprising five different Brian Ross Unit investigations that made a difference in 2012. Today: Alleged thefts by TSA screeners from airplane passenger baggage.
Since its inception, the Transportation Security Administration has had to fire nearly 400 of its own employees for allegedly stealing from passengers and in September, ABC News caught one of the alleged thieves and tracked the suspect to his home to ask some pointed questions.
As shown in a "Nightline" report, the Brian Ross Investigative Unit intentionally left a series of iPads behind at 10 different airports around the country. One was not returned.
Using the iPad's locator application, ABC News tracked the costly missing touch screen from a security checkpoint at the Orlando, Fla. airport to the home of TSA agent Andy Ramirez. Initially, Ramirez denied he had the iPad, but went into the house and brought it out after Brian Ross remotely activated the iPad's alarm system. Ramirez then said his wife had taken the iPad from the airport, but the TSA later fired Ramirez for the alleged theft.
In addition to the tracked iPad, in the course of the investigation, ABC News interviewed former TSA agent and convicted thief Pythias Brown who said that in just three years he managed to steal an estimated $800,000 in cash and goods from travelers.
Impact: Beyond the disciplinary action against Ramirez, the ABC News investigation prompted two members of Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.- New York) and Rep. John Mica (R.- Fla.) to call on the TSA to tighten its anti-theft measures. In a letter to TSA head John Pistole, Schumer called on the TSA to conduct random sting operations to catch a "few bad apples" that were "spoiling" the rest of the TSA's honest staff. The Port Authority Police Department also told ABC News after the report aired that it had increased the number of sting operations at JFK airport in New York City because of media attention to thefts from passenger baggage.
The report also prompted a flood of response from viewers, many of whom claimed to have been victims of thefts as they traveled.