PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An alert United Airlines employee helped stop a man from stealing a passenger’s suitcase this week at Portland International Airport.
Port of Portland Police arrested Gilbert Steffanides following the reported incident Wednesday at PDX. He has been charged with one count of first-degree theft.
According to police, a United Airlines employee was working in the baggage claim office when she saw a man looking at a bag that was behind a cordoned off area. The bag was set for delivery. The employee said the suspect went into the office and told the employee he was taking his bag.
When the employee looked at the bag and saw the owner’s name, she became skeptical that the man taking the bag was in fact the owner, police said. The man took the bag and walked away and continued to maintain he was the owner. The employee followed the suspect and asked him where he had come from. Steffanides reportedly responded, “New York.”
When the employee told Steffanides that the bag had arrived from Seattle, he reportedly changed his story and claimed that he had flown in from Seattle, court documents state.
When the employee asked Steffanides what airline he had flown, he was unable to answer. The employee took the bag, wrote down a description of him and called airport police, documents state.
An officer found a man matching his description near the Elephants Delicatessen in PDX. When the officer asked the man, “How are you doing,” Steffanides reportedly immediately raised his voice and said, “I didn’t (expletive) steal anything. Why do you want to search me?” Steffanides then allegedly took his shirt off and became very confrontational. The officer had to hold him at Taser-point in order to get him into custody, police said.
The officer went back and reviewed video that shows Steffanides arriving at the airport in a large truck, court documents state. It also showed him as he entered the baggage claim area, walked over to the United Airlines baggage claim office, studying the victim’s bag, talking to the employee and taking the bag. It then showed the confrontation between the employee and suspect.
The video also showed Steffanides taking off his shirt in the lobby near one of the TSA checkpoints.
The bag’s owner told police that the contents of his bag were worth an estimated $5,000.
Steffanides appeared in Multnomah County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon, where a court appointed attorney entered a not guilty plea. He is expected back in court next week.
— Brent Weisberg