By David Bailey
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A former Minnesota airport worker charged with stealing 10 firearms and other valuables from checked bags targeted luggage being routed from one flight to the next, making it harder to uncover the thefts, an airport spokesman said on Tuesday.
David Vang, 23, worked for a private contractor at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and was captured on video taking items from bags last year, according to a state criminal complaint charging him with 11 felonies.
Airport police, who were investigating firearms thefts at the airport, placed hidden cameras in mid-October and reviewed security footage from a remote area where detectives had found about 100 broken baggage locks, according to a police report.
The review of security video found that Vang had removed what appeared to be gun cases on three consecutive days in late September and a case for a compound hunting bow in early October that a Michigan man had reported missing, the report said.
Vang was arrested and his apartment in St. Paul searched in mid-October after police witnessed him taking more items from the airport, according to the police report.
Authorities recovered more than 700 items in labeled boxes at the apartment including five shotguns, four handguns and a bolt-action rifle, the complaint said. The items recovered were valued at about $84,400.
Items recovered also included iPads, laptops, mobile phones, cameras, purses, clothing, boots, watches, jewelry, perfumes, cigars, fishing and hunting gear, backpacks and knives.
Vang initially said the items had fallen out of bags, but eventually admitted to taking them from about June or July until October, the complaint said.
Vang told police he had not given away any of the firearms taken and they were found in a living room closet along with the hunting bow and ammunition, the report said.
"He was taking everything from connecting bags, which is what really made it difficult," airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. "We didn't know for some time that the problem even existed."
In most cases, passengers would report items missing from inside bags to the airlines they flew on or to the airports where they started or ended their trips, Hogan said.
Firearms are checked separately in their cases and their disappearance raised alarms with airport police, Hogan said.
"We saw they had been scanned as arriving at this airport and had not been scanned as getting on to an aircraft, so we knew something was happening to them at this airport," he said.
Vang is accused of taking the items to a car in an unsecured employee parking ramp for his wife, Vue Xiong, 21, to transport away from the airport. Xiong faces a single felony theft charge.
No attorney was listed for Vang or Xiong on Minnesota court electronic records and attempts to reach them by phone on Tuesday were unsuccessful. They were charged in February and their first court appearances are scheduled for later in April.
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune and Cynthia Johnston)
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