In the summer of 2021, NBC 6 received information about the theft of Major League Baseball jerseys from checked baggage at Miami International Airport. NBC 6 then submitted a public records request to the Miami-Dade Police Department citing reports of missing or stolen items during the June 1 to mid-August 2021 time frame.
After waiting for more than a year, NBC 6 obtained those records in August 2022. The records revealed 34 reports submitted to the MDPD regarding lost or stolen items. Of those, 26 detailed reports of items lost or stolen from checked baggage.
The total losses included in the 34 reports obtained by NBC 6 total over $300,000.
Records revealed that only one MLB team experienced a loss of jerseys after transferring equipment to the MIA, but three.
A woman who only asked to be called “Sarah” out of concern for her safety told NBC 6 that she was one of the people who suffered losses detailed in the reports. She says it all started with a flight from JFK Airport in New York. Sarah told NBC 6 she wasn’t planning on checking her carry-on, but says she did so reluctantly after an airline employee asked her to do so while boarding a plane.
“I hesitated because I thought it was embarrassing, and I wasn’t thinking, and I handed him my bag because he said the plane was leaving,” Sarah said. “So we either rode it, checked my bag, or that was the case.”
It wasn’t until she actually got to Miami and was unpacking her bags that she said she realized something was wrong.
“I opened the bag and my entire jewelry bag was gone,” she said.
She says her jewelry, including a Cartier bracelet, Rolex watch, and her engagement ring, are missing. Not only did she say that jewelry was missing, but she also had a Gucci handbag, Christian Dior sandals, and more. All of the items Sarah reported stolen to MDPD, from the carry-on she said she agreed to check, totaled about $170,000.
“Your engagement ring, wedding rings, things you want to pass on to your children are stolen and violated in this way. It’s been so long now, and I still feel uncomfortable traveling on commercial flights,” Sarah said.
Among the dozens of reports obtained by NBC 6, items reported included the loss or theft of brands such as Off-White, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Jordan, Gucci and more. While some reported detailing the disappearance of expensive electronic devices, others reported the disappearance of thousands of dollars in cash.
Among the most surprising items said to have disappeared from luggage at the Museum of Islamic Art were the jerseys of high-profile baseball players on the MLB rosters in 2021. The New York Yankees are listed in a report as having lost two jerseys, while the New York Mets report five The jerseys were stolen and the San Diego Padres reported four missing jerseys. The total value of the 11 missing MLB jerseys is listed at approximately $11,000.
In reports detailing the disappearance of jerseys from the Mets, Yankees, and Padres, the MDPD wrote, “…the team’s equipment arrived at Miami International on a Delta flight. When the equipment arrived at LoanDepot Park… the jerseys were missing from stock.”
Delta had no comment on the team’s jerseys, but did provide a comment on Sarah’s trip.
“Last year, we fully investigated this matter and took corrective action with our partner seller. We do not tolerate theft of personal items and baggage while we are assigned to our care,” a Delta spokesperson said.
Shortly after Sarah’s items were stolen, two men were arrested and charged.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Development says Danny Rodriguez, who worked for Delta Luggage Company, and Carlos Collazo, who was an employee of a company that subcontracted Delta, were charged with felony theft and admitted to stealing Sarah’s items before pawning her Rolex.
Court records show that Rodriguez and Collazo pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to ten years probation. Sarah says she hasn’t seen her belongings since they were stolen.
“Obviously everyone knew, even the people who took the things, how much they meant to me, and that was all I wanted was to get my things back,” she said.
NBC 6 interviewed an MDPD spokesperson about the agency’s role in MIA and what is being done to keep your stuff safe. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Administration is a lead agency tasked with investigating crimes at the airport.
“Well, I don’t think people need to worry. I think people should pay attention and be ahead of the game. Understand, as I mentioned before, you could potentially have a million people traveling through this airport in one day,” a spokesperson said. MDPD, Alvaro Zabaleta.
So far this year, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning has received about 64 reports of MIA-related thefts. Of those reports in 2022, the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development says 27 were confirmed to have occurred at the Ministry of Interior while 37 were considered “theft in transit,” meaning investigators were unable to determine whether the theft occurred at Baghdad International Airport or Another airport.
In the same time period in 2021, there were approximately 79 total reports filed with the MDPD including 49 baggage thefts that occurred at the Home Office, and 30 reported as “thefts in transit.” But police say they have made arrests in only a small portion of those cases, including airport employees in Sarah’s case.
No one has been arrested for stealing T-shirts.
“Nothing happens in a vacuum,” Zbaleta said. “…these investigations can become very complex due to the fact that there are so many variables involved. In so many of these cases, we have yet to determine where this occurred.”
Zabaleta encourages airport passengers to be aware of unusual behavior and to keep the most valuable items in their carry-on with them on the plane, and advises them not to travel with large amounts of cash.
Police say they are working around the clock with federal law enforcement to follow up on leads, conduct surveillance and monitor unusual activity at the Home Office. They say it is a crime of opportunity and is not unique to the Museum of Islamic Art. TSA data for 2017 revealed 343 claims for lost or damaged property at MIA, as opposed to 239 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, 489 at JFK in New York and 519 at LAX.
The common denominator of the problem is why Sarah says she is sharing her story, hoping that someone else will spare the pain she has endured.
“You have to keep everything shut down and everything safe and to think and think a lot, even when you are busy and in a rush,” she said. “Just really make sure you have everything of value to you, or you leave it at home, and you don’t take it with you.”
Copyright defender Paul Hudson spoke to NBC 6 around the corner about your options for protecting your property.
“This is more common than most people would expect. Some of the things you can do to prevent this are, of course, not carrying valuables or checking luggage, but putting them in your hand luggage,” he said.
Hudson recommends getting travel insurance, and said that if you notice items from your baggage disappearing, or your baggage itself has disappeared, you should alert the airline and the Transportation Security Administration as soon as possible.
“If you are traveling internationally there are shrink wrap services that will wrap your checked baggage and make it very difficult to break in. The problem is that these are generally not allowed locally. And even if you have a padlock on your luggage, it should be a management compliant padlock Transportation Security.In other words, [TSA] Hudson said.