REDWOOD CITY -- A San Francisco International Airport baggage handler suspected of pilfering items from dozens of travelers' bags was caught in a police sting and now faces felony theft charges, a prosecutor said.
United Airlines handler George Reyes, 45, of San Francisco, didn't enter a plea at his first appearance Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court on the charges, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. He was released on $50,000 bail.
Reyes was arrested Tuesday as he drove home from work, allegedly with stolen iPads and purses in his car. Police had attached GPS trackers to the items and stuffed them in luggage they knew would pass through Reyes' hands, said Wagstaffe.
Investigators also searched his home and found "loads and loads" of more stolen items, said Wagstaffe. For now, Reyes has only been charged with 2 counts of embezzlement and one count of having stolen property, all felonies. But Wagstaffe said the investigation is far from over, and he expects more charges.
United Airlines began investigating after at least 50 complaints came in from passengers between February and March who said they had items stolen from their bags. The airline suspected a worker was stealing and looked into who was on duty when the stuff went missing. That's how Reyes turned up as a suspect, Wagstaffe said.
Officers then placed the marked iPads and purses in luggage when they knew Reyes would be working and sent them his way.
Investigators are still tallying up the number of victims and how much the stolen items were worth.
"As far as we are concerned it's at least 50 (victims)," said Wagstaffe.
Reyes is due back in court June 5 for arraignment and to enter a plea.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport. ___