Texas plane cleaner accused of stealing lost items
American Airlines fires plane cleaner charged with stealing items left behind by passengers
Jamie Stengle, Associated Press Writer, On Thursday August 19, 2010, 3:34 pm EDT
DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines has fired a worker charged with theft after police searching his home found thousands of dollars worth of items that passengers left on planes at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the airline said Thursday.
Henry Ibarra, 59, who cleaned planes, had worked for Fort Worth-based American for 41 years, the airline said.
Airport police in July traced a cell phone that a passenger had accidentally left on a plane to Ibarra's Fort Worth home. While at the home with a search warrant, officers also saw what they believed were other passengers' lost belongings, including electronics, cameras, iPods and sunglasses.
Officers with a second search warrant also found items belonging to American Airlines in the garage.
Ibarra, who was arrested on a theft charge July 15 and later released, did not immediately return calls Thursday from The Associated Press.
Authorities have so far estimated the value of half of the 171 recovered items at $7,500, airport spokesman David Magana said Thursday. Officials are working to find the owners.
"The investigation is still unfolding," Magana said.
When officers originally searched the house for the missing cell phone, Ibarra said he'd forgotten to return it after picking it up and putting it in his pocket. Investigators found the phone in Ibarra's son's bedroom with its information erased and Ibarra's son's named entered into it.
The phone's serial number matched that of the one reported lost.
American, a subsidiary of AMR Corp., worked closely with police on the matter, spokesman Tim Smith said.
"While the majority of our 24,000 North Texas employees are honest and hardworking, we have no tolerance for any dishonest behavior and will take appropriate action as necessary," Smith said.