Eighteen JFK airport employees arrested for theft of as many as 100,000 tiny liquor bottles

Duty free alcohol
CBS New York
Above are some of the more than 100,000 mini bottles of liquor, as well as duty-free items, that were allegedly pilfered from John F. Kennedy International Airport during the last five months by airport workers.
Queens County District Attorney's Office

(CBS/WCBS) NEW YORK - Eighteen airport workers were arrested for the theft of thousands of tiny liquor bottles, as well as duty free merchandise, from the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, officials announced Wednesday.

During the investigation - dubbed "Operation Last Call" - the airport employees allegedly made off with over 100,000 of the mini bottles, as well as duty-free items - such as larger bottles of liquor, perfume, and cartons of cigarettes - with an overall estimated retail value of more than $750,000, according to the Queens District Attorney's Office.

According to CBS New York, the merchandise was stolen from American Airlines flights. Law enforcement sources told the station that the workers stole about 7,500 tiny liquor bottles a day, an annual loss to American Airlines of some $20 million.

Even more worrisome to officials than the theft itself, is the fact that the men hired to guard entry to the tarmac and to the planes allegedly took bribes to overlook a crime, CBS New York reports.

"Perhaps more troubling is that we have a breach of security in this post-9/11 world. I think it concerns all of us," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Inspector General Robert Van Etten said the bust will force the bi-state agency to overhaul its security procedures at the airport, CBS New York reports.

"I think several months down the road you'll see police overseeing all security in this organization and there are other enhancements," Van Etten said.

Three security guards were charged with taking bribes to allow the loot to leave secure areas of the airport in gray sacks and 15 airport workers were nabbed for stealing the items, according to CBS New York.

Officials involved in the probe said it should serve as a security wake-up call, and that airports around the country should do more to weed out the so called "threats from within."