LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If you are heading to LAX for the holidays, watch out for the valuables in your luggage. TSA receives about 12,000 complaints each year of items lost or stolen from luggage nationwide.
No one knows if the thieves are TSA officers or baggage handlers, but we found that during the most recent eight-year period LAX has the most complaints in the nation.
"For me it was more like, 'You guys went through my bag,'" said Felicia Winningham of Los Angeles.
Winningham was flying cross-country when TSA officers went through her checked bag for security reasons. When she got it back her vitamins and daughter's DVDs were missing.
"How do you explain to a two-year old that your DVD isn't in there? Your Elmo DVD isn't in there?" she asked.
We discovered that from January 2002 through April 2010, LAX had 4,546 claims of items lost or stolen from luggage -- the most of any airport in the nation. JFK was second with 3,946 claims followed by Newark Liberty Airport with 3,335 claims.
At LAX passengers reported missing 692 digital cameras, 475 pieces of fine jewelry and 442 laptops.
Ryan Driscoll was a TSA officer for nine years. He is on administrative leave after being arrested for stealing jewelry out of luggage.
David Goldstein: "They say they caught you red handed taking stuff out of luggage?"
Ryan Driscoll: "They definitely didn't catch me red handed, let's put it that way."
David Goldstein: "Did you take anything out of the luggage?"
Ryan Driscoll: "No. There's nothing. You'll have to talk with my lawyer dude."
Sources said it happened inside Terminal 7 in the baggage screening room, where TSA personal are supposed to be keeping the skies safe by checking for weapons or explosives.
Police said Driscoll had his hand inside a piece of luggage and pulled out some jewelry. He was arrested when it was allegedly caught on tape.
David Goldstein: "You are there to protect all of us in the skies and you are accused of stealing stuff out of luggage?"
Ryan Driscoll: "I don't know what it says. This is something I don't want to deal with. I've been there nine years. Been a long time."
TSA told us they have a zero-tolerance policy for theft in the workplace.
Airport officials said that LAX is the number one origin and destination airport in the nation and that is why more claims are filed here. They maintain that in the first four months of last year -- the most recent stats -- LAX came in third.
But police sources said that there is a serious problem with thefts from luggage at LAX. They have been investigating TSA employees and baggage handlers, working separately and together, going through luggage and stealing items in a matter of seconds.
"Thefts occur because we make it easy for people to steal," said Philip Little, a security expert, who has done a study on LAX and other airports.
He said because luggage is constantly on the move -- sometimes in secure areas – it is easy for employees to get away with thefts.
"It's not the question of how many we catch, because occasionally one gets caught, it's how many we don't catch," Little said.
He recommends never putting valuables in checked luggage. Carry them with you to keep them away from thieves at the airport.
Visit TSA's Claims Management Branch to learn how to file a claim for missing or damaged items in checked luggage.
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