Baggage Handler Accused of Large-Scale Theft at Phoenix Airport

A baggage handler at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items from passenger luggage.

Michael Hegstad, 23, was taken into custody after officers saw him remove items from two boxes he was taking off a baggage conveyor belt. He admitted to police to repeatedly taking items from luggage at the airport.

Police were able to retrieve a large number of the items, which include electronics, but Sgt. Steve Martos says it will take time to find all the victims.

"There could very well be hundreds of victims from across the country and across the globe," Martos says. He estimates the value of the items in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hegstad was a contract employee with baggage handling firm Elite Line Services, based in Texas, and did pass a background check before being hired, Martos says.

Another man accused of stealing up to 1,000 bags at Sky Harbor recently pleaded guilty, in an unrelated case. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month. His partner in crime was already sentenced to 3 ½ years in jail.

A Sky Harbor spokeswoman says airport security is why Hegstad was caught and officials aren't looking to make any changes. Still, she suggests passengers should always keep valuables on their person rather than in checked bags.

Photo, giantsqurl, flickr

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