Thursday, March 02, 2017

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS) Bag Handler Looted Luggage for Guns, Traded Weapons for Drugs

AUSTIN - Federal authorities have charged a baggage handler at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after he allegedly stole firearms from passenger bags and traded some of the stolen guns for marijuana.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office states Ja’Quan Johnson, 25, of Austin surrendered to FBI agents Wednesday morning. Authorities say in a criminal complaint that Johnson stole the weapons between Nov. 29, 2016 and Feb. 2, 2017, and that Austin police have recovered seven firearms that authorities say Johnson stole. In a Thursday briefing, police said their investigation began when a man reported his gun missing after he checked it for a flight. Seven other weapons were reported stolen between November and early February.

APD said the organized crime division secured search warrants for Johnson's home after surveillance and watching employee card swipes. While serving those warrants, police arrested Matthew Bartlett, 21, and Catronn Hewitt, 36, on felony marijuana charges. Investigators say Johnson traded the guns for marijuana, but did not provide a specific amount.

Johnson is a contract employee with ABIA, and KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman report he passed a background check.

The complaint charges Johnson with theft from an interstate shipment and possession of stolen firearms. If convicted, Johnson faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each charge.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office added “Johnson was released on personal recognizance bond following his initial court appearance."

APD said they feel confident they have addressed all known theft of firearm cases, but ask anyone who feels their firearm was stolen from checked baggage at ABIA to call Detective Westling at 512-530-7540.

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Man accused of stealing guns from baggage at Austin airport had passed background check

The Austin airport baggage handler who the FBI and Austin police say stole handguns from bags to trade for pot had passed a background check, police said Thursday.

The employee, 25-year-old Austin resident Ja’Quan Johnson, has been fired from his contract job at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Lt. Joe Robles said.

Authorities believe Johnson stole seven handguns from checked bags at the airport from Nov. 29 through Feb. 2. Many of those handguns he traded for marijuana, authorities said.

Police have recovered five of the seven weapons stolen from the airport. Two more handguns also identified as stolen from elsewhere were recovered during the investigation, Robles said.

Johnson has been charged with theft from an interstate shipment and possession of stolen firearms. He turned himself in on Wednesday and was release on a personal recognizance bond, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

On Feb. 3, Austin police searched Johnson’s home on Parkfield Drive in North Austin. As a result, they arrested his roommate Matthew Bartlett, 21, and charged him with felony possession of marijuana.

At the time, police interviewed Johnson and he confessed to stealing the weapons from airport baggage. He was terminated from his baggage handling job almost immediately, Robles said.

Through those interviews, Austin police were also led to Catronn Hewitt, 36, who was also arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana.

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