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Cargo Workers Accused of Stealing Currency

BROOKLYN (CN) — Federal prosecutors arrested a group of cargo handlers at JFK International Airport for claims that they stole foreign currency on international flights.

The five men were arrested Wednesday and hauled before U.S. District Judge Vera M. Scanlon in Brooklyn Federal Court on charges of conspiring to steal U.S. mail.

The men worked for Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG) at Terminal One of John F. Kennedy International Airport, prosecutors claim.

For the past four years, the baggage handlers allegedly stole mail on international flights going to and leaving JFK from Japan Airlines, Austrian Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines flights.

"The cargo handlers targeted mail they believed to contain foreign currency, including Japanese yen and euros, and then exchanged the foreign currency at currency exchange businesses at JFK Airport, and at other financial institutions," according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The ringleader was ASIG's former manager, who "not only failed to stop the theft of mail, but actively promoted it by assigning cargo handlers to flights where they could steal mail and demanding kickbacks of stolen currency in exchange," prosecutors say.

"These cargo handlers abused their access to sensitive areas of JFK Airport to steal foreign currency from the mail and were aided by a manager who actively promoted their criminal conduct," Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement.

Their arrests will "serve as a warning that federal law enforcement authorities are committed to protecting the integrity of the mail and will hold accountable those that steal mail or attempt to profit from the theft of mail," Capers added.

A high-ranking member of the U.S. Post Office also took a swipe at the alleged perpetrators.

"These defendants and their supervisor were entrusted with the security of the mail. They abused that trust when they stole foreign currency from the mail, violating the sanctity of the seal," Postal Inspector in Charge Phillip R. Bartlett said.

It's not the first time this has happened. Six others were arrested last August on similar charges. Their cases are pending before U.S. District Judge Allyne R. Ross.

The five men in the latest case are: Rickash Gobin, 41, from Queens; Fitzroy Ragbeer, 58, from Inwood, N.Y.; Franklin Beresford, 26, from Brooklyn; Pedro Lopez Jr., 34, also from Brooklyn; and Nick Sadler, 35, of Rockaway Park, also in Brooklyn.

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