Orlando International Among Top 10 With Incidents Of TSA Agents Stealing Passenger Items

Orlando, Fla. -

Orlando International Airports is now among the top 10 airports in the nation with TSA agents caught stealing items belonging to passengers.

In a recent undercover operation conducted by ABC News, an iPad was intentionally left behind at Orlando International Airport and a camera was recording the TSA agents who handled the device.

After 15 days, the iPad still had not been turned into Lost and Found at the airport. The iPad was clearly marked on its case with the name, address and phone number of the "owner", and no contact was ever made.

ABC News then turned on the Alert feature and went to the home where the iPad was located using the tablets secret tracking feature.

When ABC News knocked on the door, Andy Ramirez answered, a TSA agent who works at the Orlando International Airport. When asked about the lost iPad he said his wife had brought it home, but that he does not know from where.

When asked why he was record on video as the only one to handle it, he promptly shut the door.

The TSA has since fired Ramirez and says it has a zero tolerance for agents who steal passenger's belongings.

Sadly, Orlando is near the top of the list for stolen items from passengers of the nations top 40 busiest airports. The good news, TSA agents at other airports like Los Angeles and New York promptly contacted the passenger name listed on the iPad case, in other words, they followed TSA guidelines.

In the Orlando case, ABC News watched the iPad move away from the airport about two hours later, 30 miles. Ramirez eventually turned over the iPad but out of uniform.

This is the tip of the iceberg," said Rep. John Mica, R.-Florida, chair of the House Transportation Committee and a frequent critic of TSA senior management. "It is an outrage to the public, and actually to our aviation system."

Congressman Mica says TSA management has failed to properly do background checks on the employees it hires as officers, and had earlier this year asked the Government Accountability Office to do a full investigation of TSA's theft problems.

The TSA says they have fired 381 agents between 2003-2012 for stealing, but public records, police reports and complaints to the FAA and airlines show in the same period there have been as many as 12,000 items stolen.

We called to ask the TSA about this and they said they had no comment and only would say TSA agents are hard working and honest.

Many airports, including Orlando's second international airport, Orlando Sanford, have already switched to private security firms doing passenger screenings or are thinking about it. San Francisco was the first major airport to kick the TSA agents out and bring in private security firms.

Many say the TSA does a horrible job at human resources and manpower and should take on a "policy and advisory" role and return screenings back to the airports themselves, the airlines and private firms who they say can do it better, more efficient and cheaper that the TSA.

"Have you ever walked through a large airport like Orlando's and see the incredible amount of TSA agents just walking around, sitting, and talking to each other, in other words not working but getting paid" asks Jessica Hamilton, a proponent of bringing back private firms. She also says during a 10 year period immediately before the TSA came to be, reports of theft at airports of passenger belongings were nearly half what they are now.

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