Checking luggage can lead to a slew of fears, and for two unrelated travelers passing through the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, those fears became reality when nearly $16,000 worth of items were stolen from their bags.
But thanks to one of the passengers placing an Apple AirTag in her checked baggage, the items were recovered — in the home of an airport employee.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Airport Security Unit was made aware of two suspicious missing items reports from two separate passengers this summer before investigating the two in conjunction with one another.
In July, one passenger reported that her luggage had gone missing and never made it to her destination out of the Florida-based airport, citing that the baggage contained items worth over $1,600.
However, she had placed an Apple AirTag tracking device inside the suitcase that had pinged its most recent location to a residential area in Mary Esther, Florida.
Her claim was followed by another passenger reporting that over $15,000 in jewelry among other items was stolen out of his bag on August 9.
Authorities then began investigating employees who worked at the airport who lived in the area where the AirTag was traced, and it led them to the home of 19-year-old airline subcontractor Giovanni De Luca, who was charged with two counts of grand theft.
“This arrest is an example of excellent teamwork by our Airport Security Unit, our Investigators, and the Airport to find the person responsible for these thefts and make sure he is held responsible,” Sheriff Eric Aden said on behalf of the police department.
The suitcase that was reported missing was found and recovered at DeLuca’s home. He also confessed to removing the July passenger’s AirTag from her luggage and said that he went through her bag as well, though that suitcase was not recovered in the investigation.
AirTags, which had built up a contentious reputation after multiple incidents of stalking and robberies, have become an easy and helpful way for passengers to keep track of their items when traveling.
A Canadian couple recently made headlines when they were able to track a suitcase all around the country of Portugal before safely reuniting with their bag less than a week later.
It was reported that an estimated 1,241,209 luggage bags out of around 220 million checked bags were “mishandled” by U.S. airlines from July 2021 to December 2021.
Entrepreneur has reached out to the Okaloosa Police Department for any further information.