PARIS, July 20, 2010— -- The Air France flight attendant arrested last Friday morning at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport as she returned from Tokyo could have easily inspired the Beatles' hit "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."
For months, the 47-year-old flight attendant, whom authorities would identify only as Lucie R., had been suspected of stealing jewelry and credit cards from sleeping business- and first-class passengers on her flights.
An investigation launched in January after five Japanese passengers on a Tokyo-Paris bound flight filed complaints with French police, alleging that money had been stolen from them during their flight. The total missing from all five passengers was 4,000 euros (about $5,150).
When police arrested Lucie R. at the airport, she confessed to a total of 27 passenger thefts, according to the Synergie police union.
But investigators suspect the flight attendant of many more burglaries, including the pilfering of wads of euros, Japanese yen and Swiss francs, along with designer watches, jewelry and credit cards. Dozens of victims have filed complaints after night flights between Paris and Asia, with most of the alleged thefts occurring on the Paris-Tokyo run.
Investigators are working to identify other possible victims.
"Investigators quickly ruled out that the perpetrator was from outside [the airline]," Francis Nebot of the Synergie police union told ABC News. "They focused their investigation on the flight crew and indentified her after analyzing the lists of flight crews that worked on the flights that had been targeted," he said.
The police have put Lucie R. on probation, and she faces a possible 10-year prison term if convicted.
While in police custody, the flight attendant, who is married with children, explained to investigators that she'd been experiencing financial difficulties.
"She had a lifestyle far too extravagant compared to her income," Nebot explained. "Investigators quickly realized that she had made important cash deposits into her bank account following the thefts, and that these deposits had come after her bank account was in the negative."
Flight Attendant Left Passengers' Jewelry in Pawnshop
French investigators also learned that Lucie R. had recently gone to the state-owned pawnshop in the city of Rouen, about 70 miles west of Paris, where she'd deposited several pieces of jewelry.
"She even stole holiday vouchers from her colleagues," Nebot said, after French police searched her home.
Air France declined to comment about the case to ABC News.