3 Vegas airport techs accused of equipment theft

AP News
Posted: Apr 01, 2011 4:37 PM
3 Vegas airport techs accused of equipment theft

Three employees at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas are facing criminal conspiracy, burglary and theft charges alleging they stole electronic equipment and an air compressor motor from their workplace, officials said Friday.

Information systems technicians Matthew Charniga, 39, and Joseph Cordova, 34, were fired after a four-month criminal investigation led to charges they pilfered about $2,800 worth of items including touchscreen universal electronic remote control devices and a music mix deck ordered through airport accounts, airport spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez said.

The men's supervisor, 34-year-old Chad Norton, also faces charges and was on paid leave pending a resolution of the criminal case and an airport investigation, Sanchez said.

The men were arrested Feb. 3 and freed from jail the next day pending arraignment Monday before a Las Vegas justice of the peace. Each faces misdemeanor conspiracy and felony burglary and theft charges, according to court records.

Charniga's lawyer, John Momot, declined comment. Attorneys for Norton and Cordova didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported the case Friday. The report said investigators found evidence the men tampered with a surveillance camera in the building where they worked and that some video had been erased.

McCarran's information systems department has about 80 employees who provide a wide range of computer and technical assistance to various airport divisions, Sanchez said. Among many other duties, the technicians worked on cameras in the baggage claim area and outside the airport.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger declined Friday to talk about details of the investigation, but said officials were continuing to probe whether security was breached. The airport ranked eighth in the nation in passenger traffic in 2010, handling just under 40 million travelers.

"Because these individuals have been alleged to have stolen items from the airport and had access to surveillance, we're very concerned," Roger said.

A regional Transportation Security Administration official, Carrie Harmon, said the federal agency was not investigating.

"None of the cameras in question were used to monitor the security checkpoint or secure areas of the airport, so TSA is not conducting an investigation," Harmon said in a statement to The Associated Press. She said the agency couldn't comment on the police investigation.

Sanchez told the AP that airport officials also were investigating, but don't believe security was compromised.

"Security monitoring is handled by a separate division within the airport and the TSA, and not the information technology employees," she said. "They have security clearance to do their job. The scope of their job is to install and fix equipment. Their job does not include monitoring those systems. Others monitor those systems."