Apple Watch in Stolen Luggage Leads to Airport Worker’s House, Police Say

Apple Watch in Stolen Luggage Leads to Airport Worker’s House, Police Say

When a Florida woman’s pink hard-shell roller bag didn’t show up at the baggage carousel after her flight was canceled, she panicked.

Then she checked the location-tracking feature of the Apple Watch she had packed inside. It was pinging from an address about six miles north of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where she had checked her bag, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The woman went to the address. And although she didn’t find her bag or anyone at the house, she took photos and videos of luggage scattered outside, the Sheriff’s Office said in an affidavit.

That touched off an investigation that led to the arrest in March of a man who worked at the airport and lived at the address. He was charged with grand theft after the Sheriff’s Office said that surveillance video showed him rummaging through her bag at the airport. The office said he had stolen more than $5,000 worth of her belongings, including her Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook, jewelry, clothes and toiletries.

The woman, Paola Garcia, was not identified in court documents, but she spoke this week to WPLG, a Florida television station, about her decision go to the man’s address after Spirit Airlines canceled her flight on March 3.

Ms. Garcia, a college student, could not be reached for comment on Friday, but she said in the interview with WPLG that Spirit had told her it would deliver her bag to her home. When she saw the address, she wondered, “How can Spirit deliver my suitcase there?”

By going to the home, Ms. Garcia told WPLG, she hoped in particular to get back her MacBook, which she needed for a test. When she saw other pieces of luggage outside the house, she called 911, she said.

“The first thing the police told me was, like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Ms. Garcia said. “‘This is so dangerous for you to be here.’”

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said that it had searched an internal airport database of employees and matched the address with a man named Junior Geneus Bazile, who was working at the airport on the day the woman’s bag disappeared.

The Sheriff’s Office then contacted Mr. Bazile’s employer, Paradies Lagardère, a company that operates stores and restaurants in airports, and obtained surveillance footage from that day.

The footage showed Mr. Bazile entering a Paradies Lagardère storage room with a pink hard-shell roller bag like the one the woman had checked with Spirit Airlines before her flight was canceled, the Sheriff’s Office said in the affidavit.

Mr. Bazile can be seen then rifling through the bag and taking out a MacBook and other items, the affidavit states. The footage shows him putting smaller items in a black bag and the MacBook and pink roller bag in clear plastic bags, the affidavit states.

Based on that evidence, the Sheriff’s Office said, it charged Mr. Bazile, 29, with grand theft, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Mr. Bazile has pleaded not guilty, court records show. His lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday, and he could not be reached at a phone number listed under his name.

Ms. Garcia told WPLG that her stolen belongings had not been recovered. She said she normally keeps her pink roller bag in an overhead bin when she flies but had been told by Spirit that she had to check it.

Spirit said in a statement that even though it was not aware of any evidence that an airline employee was involved in the theft, it had issued a “reimbursement check to the guest as a courtesy on May 20.”

Paradies Lagardère said in a statement that it “takes this matter very seriously.”

“Immediately upon learning of the incident, this employee was terminated,” the company said, adding that it had cooperated in the investigation.

The proliferation of AirTags, Tiles and other devices that can be tracked has led to arrests in the past.

In 2022, a traveler who put an AirTag in her bag helped sheriff’s deputies in Florida identify a worker at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport who was accused of stealing more than $16,000 in goods from passengers’ luggage, the authorities said.

In May, the Sheriff’s Office in Martin County, Fla., said it had arrested a driver who struck and injured a 15-year-old boy on his bicycle, dragging the teenager off the road and then fleeing the scene. Investigators said the location-tracking feature of one of the teenager’s AirPods, which became lodged under a floor mat inside the man’s car, led them to the driver’s home.

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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