MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIRPORT (WCCO) — When you check your luggage in for a flight out of town you expect to land with all your belongings still intact.
But beginning in July 2012, a number of passengers flying through Minneapolis-St. Paul airport on connecting flights would soon discover that their bags had been tampered with and some valuables were missing.
“If they found things missing from their luggage, they called the airport where the trip began or ended,” MSP Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. “They were not calling us.”
It wasn’t until hunting weapons and guns went missing that police got the break they needed.
Those items can’t be checked inside luggage, but must be checked separately. Each one gets scanned with its own unique baggage barcode, and is checked at the counter and then again when it is handled prior to being loaded onto the aircraft.
“So we could see that some guns were scanned at this airport, but had not been scanned as to getting onto the aircraft,” Hogan said.
So investigators set up two undercover cameras in the area where they believed the items were disappearing.
Images from those cameras clearly reveal a baggage handler, identified as 23-year-old David Vang of St. Paul, pulling bags aside and searching for valuables.
Other camera views catch him stashing stolen valuables out of sight, until he could later retrieve them and remove them from airport property.
Investigators believe he took the items while they were hidden in a backpack to an employee parking area, where Vang’s wife, Vue Xiong, was waiting in a vehicle.
When police searched Vang’s St. Paul apartment, they found over 700 items, from firearms and electronics, to purses, watches and jewelry. An eighth-month long crime spree was clearly captured on camera.
“The individual was able to get by with this for a few months, but ultimately he got caught and now he’s going to pay the price,” Hogan said.
Vang has been formally charged with 10 felony counts of stealing firearms. In addition, he’s facing another aggravated felony theft charge for all the other property.
It’s estimated he stole more than $84,000 worth of passenger’s property.