MINNEAPOLIS, MN - A worker at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has been charged with stealing shotguns, revolvers and other weapons from the checked luggage of passengers who had connections through the busy Twin Cities airport.
David Vang, 23, of St. Paul faces 11 felony counts, including 10 counts of theft of a firearm. He will be making his first court appearance April 25 in Hennepin County.
Pat Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said Monday that Vang was employed by a Texas firm to maintain the belt on which checked baggage traveled. Hogan said authorities learned in September that weapons were being stolen, so they set up surveillance cameras.
A review of footage showed Vang removing items from checked luggage and taking them to an unsecured employee parking ramp where his wife was waiting in a vehicle, the criminal complaint said.
Vang was arrested in October and is no longer working at the airport, Hogan said.
Several boxes containing firearms, a crossbow, iPads, laptops, mobile phones, jewelry and other electronics were removed from Vang's apartment, the complaint said. Authorities said he had 716 stolen items, valued at more than $84,000.
Online court records do not list an attorney for Vang. A working home phone number for Vang was not available Monday.
According to the complaint, Vang initially claimed the weapons and other items fell out of luggage as it came down the line, but later admitted to stealing, saying he had been doing it since last summer.
"When asked why he did it, Defendant Vang stated that he just wanted the items," the complaint said.
Hogan said authorities realized there was an issue when they started getting reports that weapons were disappearing during passengers' connecting flights. All firearms have to be declared to airlines as luggage is checked and must be shipped in hard cases. Sometimes, the hard cases are checked separately from other luggage and scanned individually, so authorities can track when a case containing a weapon is removed from one airplane and placed on another.
"In this case, only connecting bags were being pilfered," Hogan said. "Weapons were scanned as coming into (Minneapolis-St. Paul) but not scanned as going into the aircraft, so that's what alerted us that there was an issue here."
Hogan said thefts from luggage are rare, but the airport recommends travelers place valuables such as jewelry in their carry-on luggage. Weapons, however, must be checked.
"Fortunately, we don't deal with this kind of situation very often," Hogan said. "Once we found out about it, we were able to track him down and bring him to justice."
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