Nov 4, 2009 10:46 AM by Associated Press
Two people suspected of stealing up to 1,000 pieces of luggage from baggage claim carousels at Phoenix's airport have been arrested by police who found heaps of the stolen bags strewn throughout their home.
There were so many suitcases that Phoenix police could only give a rough estimate of their number Tuesday as they pulled them out one by one and gathered them in the yard of Keith Wilson King and Stacy Lynne Legg-King's suburban residence.
"A piece of luggage here, a piece of luggage there, I would imagine gets stolen out of airports all the time," Phoenix police Detective James Holmes said Tuesday. "This is a livelihood. There's a lot of luggage and there's a lot of victims."
King, 61, and Legg-King, 38, were arrested Monday, and each was booked into jail on charges of theft of property and possession of stolen property. Legg-King also was arrested on suspicion of tampering with evidence. It was not immediately clear how the two are related.
Both denied requests to be interviewed, and it was unclear whether they had attorneys.
Holmes said investigators do not know how long the thefts have been happening, or whether more people were involved. All the luggage tags that would help identify the bags' owners were removed, he said.
Police first arrested King on a misdemeanor theft charge about three weeks ago when an officer saw him park at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, take a piece of luggage from one of the baggage claim carousels and get back into his car. He was released, and police began conducting surveillance on him.
Holmes said police followed King to the airport Monday and watched him take a piece of luggage that wasn't his and return to his home with it. They found the hundreds of other bags after searching the house Tuesday.
The home was in complete disarray, Holmes said, with the luggage, clothing and other items including garbage scattered about.
"The amount of luggage being stored inside of the residence was almost surreal," Officer Kendall Goo wrote in a court document.
Deborah Ostreicher, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix airport, said airlines stopped checking passengers' baggage claim tickets there sometime in the last 10 years as a cost-cutting measure.
She said airport officials and airlines are working together to assess security at the airport and are talking about checking passengers' bag tags again.
"We're evaluating a lot of different possibilities," she said.
Meanwhile, she said passengers should avoid putting critical medications or expensive items in checked luggage, clearly mark their bags, and pick them up as soon as possible after landing.