MONTREAL - A veteran British Columbia airport security screener has been charged and quietly convicted after being caught red-handed stealing a $100 bill from a passenger's bag at a security checkpoint.
A second security screener at Ottawa International Airport hastily resigned his job after he was caught taking home a laptop left behind by a distracted passenger.
The two incidents have emerged during QMI Agency's ongoing investigation into rogue airport security screeners who've stolen from Canadian airline passengers.
No announcement was made in the cases by the RCMP, which arrested the Vancouver screener, or by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), the federal Crown corporation that oversees pre-flight security operations at the nation's airports.
CATSA officials told QMI Agency last year that they were "unaware" of any Canadian airport security screeners ever being arrested or convicted for stealing from airline passengers and insisted they kept no records about such cases. QMI has found otherwise.
Last fall, QMI revealed the case of Denis Bouffard, a Montreal security screener caught stealing from passengers at Trudeau International Airport for eight months in 2002.
Bouffard was convicted in 2003 and alleged that other Montreal screeners also stole with impunity.
The newly discovered Vancouver and Ottawa cases, together with the Bouffard conviction, are examples of a little-known, but national theft problem at Canada's airports.
Mary Susan Fernandes, the screener at Vancouver International Airport, was arrested for theft in February 2008 following an RCMP probe. Fernandes had worked there since 2002.
Fernandes was caught trying to swipe a $100 bill from a bag belonging to passenger Kin Wa Amy Leung during a search at a pre-flight security area, court records and CATSA reports state.
Leung confronted Fernandes and the screener returned the money to Leung, claiming she removed it during the search and forgot to return it, a CATSA report states.
Leung complained to Aeroguard, a security company which employed Fernandes, and CATSA and the RCMP were called. Airport surveillance video was secured. The RCMP arrested Fernandes
Fernandes, 62, pleaded guilty to theft on Dec. 10, 2009, and received a conditional discharge, a year's probation and 20 hours community service. CATSA has barred her from screening work.
Reached in B.C., Fernandes said she's "retired" and denied robbing passengers.
Reports about the Fernandes case existed at CATSA, but the Crown corporation didn't disclose them to QMI Agency last year after a detailed Access to Information request for reports and complaints by passengers who alleged thefts and demanded compensation.
CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque said those records didn't surface when officials processed QMI Agency's request because they were classified differently in a database.
The Vancouver case never resulted in a complaint or compensation claim to CATSA.
"It was resolved at the checkpoint," Larocque said. "We did not intend to mislead anyone."
A TALE OF TWO AIRPORTS
Call it the tale of the two left-behind laptops, a story that highlights the different approach Canadian and U.S. authorities are taking to rogue airport security screeners.
Two passengers - one in Ottawa (2008), the other in Memphis (2010) - became distracted going through pre-flight security checkpoints and left behind laptops.
Both were desperate to get their laptops back and eventually did. But that's where the similarities between the two cases end.
The U.S. passenger returned to a Memphis Airport checkpoint to get his machine; the Canadian woman sent her spouse to the Ottawa airport, realizing her mistake only after she took off.
One Ottawa screener took the woman's laptop to an unidentified senior screener.
The senior Canadian screener initially claimed he took the laptop to lost and found. Neither the laptop, or any record of it being turned in, were found.
The screener's boss became concerned he was not telling the truth. The screener finally admitted taking it home in a bag.
The U.S screener, Ricky German, took the U.S. male passenger's computer. He removed identifying information, wrapped it in his coat and hid it, telling the passenger who lost it he knew nothing about its whereabouts, court documents state.
The Canadian was suspended and hastily quit his job before the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority decertified him. Neither his employer, Aeroguard, nor CATSA tells Ottawa Police.
Memphis Police tell German, the U.S. screener, they'll review airport surveillance video for possible clues. Soon after, German claims he "found" the missing laptop.
Police view the video anyways. German is fired, arrested and charged with theft and making a false statement. Convicted in U.S. Federal Court, he was sentenced to eight months jail on Jan. 27.