Michael Arato, Airport Screener, Stole Thousands of Dollars from Passengers at Newark

Planes at Newark Liberty Airport (File Photo:Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)
(File Photo:Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Arato, Airport Screener, Stole Thousands of Dollars from Passengers at Newark
(AP Photo, file)

(CBS/WCBS/AP) As if it's not enough to worry about those invasive body scans at the airport, a TSA airport supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey admitted Monday to stealing thousands of dollars from unsuspecting passengers during security screenings.

Authorities say Michael Arato, 41, of Ewing was arrested in October and has been charged with stealing from passengers, mainly women who did not speak English, at a security checkpoint in Terminal B.

"He was a predator then. He was looking for women from other countries that would not necessarily know the customs of this country and seeking them to steal that money," passenger Tracy Rubinetti told CBS station WCBS.

According to court papers, Arato was recorded voicing his anger over people "leaving this country with our money."

Prosecutors say Arato, along with one of the screeners he supervised, stole $10,000 to $30,000 in cash from travelers' bags over a period of 13 months.

In exchange, the unnamed subordinate, who has not been charged as a result of his cooperation with the investigation, would give some of the money to Arato.

A TSA spokesperson said security officers here undergo significant background checks, adding: "The unfortunate choices of a couple of individuals should in no way serve as a reflection on the more than 1050 security officers at Newark Liberty who conduct themselves with professionalism and integrity every day and do an outstanding job keeping the traveling public safe."

Arato faces a maximum potential sentence of 15 years in prison, though the actual penalty may be less under sentencing guidelines. He's to be sentenced May 24.