Ex-Newark Airport security supervisor jailed in kickback scheme
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
BY JUSTO BAUTISTA
A former security supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport was sentenced to 30 months in prison Wednesday for accepting bribes and kickbacks from a co-worker who regularly stole money from passengers during security screenings, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.
Michael Arato, 42, of Ewing, who worked as a lead Transportation Security Officer at the B-3 checkpoint in Terminal B, not only accepted bribes from the co-worker, he also stole money himself, the government said.
The scheme unraveled as passengers began to complain about missing money. The co-worker, Al Raimi, 29, of Woodbridge, told authorities he had been stealing money from passengers passing through the B-3 checkpoint since October 2009, and that Arato knew about it and agreed to the kickbacks, the government said.
The B-3 checkpoint serves international passengers, including those traveling on AirIndia, which has a daily non-stop flight from the airport to India, departing around 6:20 p.m.
Starting in August 2009, Transportation Security Administration officials and Port Authority police received numerous complaints from passengers scheduled to fly AirIndia reporting that money and other valuables were missing after their baggage was hand searched by TSA employees at the B-3 checkpoint.
Arato worked at the B-3 checkpoint from Sept. 2009 to October 2010, and during that time permitted Raimi to steal between $10,000 and $30,000 in cash from travelers, the government said. In exchange, Raimi would “kick up” a portion of the stolen money to Arato.
Raimi began cooperating with the government in September 2010, authorities said.
Over a three-week period in September and October 2010, surveillance video captured Arato accepting approximately $3,100 in bribes, the government said.
Raimi told investigators that if a passenger left the airport without noticing that their money was missing, he and Arato would go into an office and divide the stolen cash, the government said. Raimi also told investigators that when he and Arato worked the same shift, he would steal $400 to $700, on average, from passengers and kick back $200 to $400 to Arato, the government said.
During the investigation, which was conducted by investigators from the Port Authority and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Raimi secretly recorded conversations with Arato, and can be heard complaining in a recording from Sept. 15, 2010 that he had not been able to steal anything because all the passengers whose bags he had checked had “no more than two three hundred tops.” Arato tells Raimi on the same recording that “if I find an envelope, I’m taking it, I swear to my kids,” the government said.
They also discussed how they did not feel bad stealing from foreign travelers, who they said were “leaving this country with our money.” Arato accepted $1,200 from Raimi during the shift captured on the recording, the government said.
Raimi pleaded guilty to theft by a government officer before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark on Feb. 24 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20.
In addition to his prison term, Arato was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $24,150 to the theft victims.
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