October 20, 2005, 8:15 PM EDT
NEW YORK -- A security employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport was charged Thursday with stealing $80,000 in cash from a checked suitcase headed for Pakistan, the Queens district attorney's office said.
The Transportation Security Administration screener, Frank Ulerio, Jr., 23, allegedly stole the money when he was inspecting checked luggage on Oct. 7 in a Pakistan International Airlines area at the airport. Prosecutors said he stole the cash from the suitcase of a 45-year-old passenger from Astoria, Queens who was flying to Pakistan.
The victim discovered the theft when he landed in Pakistan and police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, began an investigation.
When confronted, Ulerio admitted stealing $60,000 and said he used some of it to pay off a gambling debt. Police recovered $18,000 when he was arrested at work Wednesday.
Ulerio, a Queens resident, faces charges of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Ulerio is awaiting arraignment and will have a court-appointed lawyer, said Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney's office.
The owner of the money did not declare the cash but Ryan said he was never asked if he had anything to declare and likely will not be charged with a crime.
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