ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- A former Army National Guard reservist was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing nearly 1,000 pieces of luggage at Washington's three major airports.
Derrick Kysar, 43, testified Friday that he began helping himself to luggage about four years ago, eventually stealing $2 million worth of medicine, clothing and other personal items.
Kysar staked out baggage claim areas at Reagan National Airport, where he was assigned in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also targeted bags at Dulles International Airport and Baltimore Washington International Airport, selling the contents at yard sales in low-income neighborhoods.
He told a judge in Arlington that stealing luggage was an act of desperation.
''My motive, and it's no excuse, was to pay my bills,'' he said, adding that he filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and had taken out a second mortgage on the condo he shared with his wife and young daughter. ''Desperate people do stupid things.''
Investigators found hundreds of stolen items stockpiled in his Arlington home, including 300 tubes of toothpaste and 500 pairs of men's white socks. Maps, cell phones, jewelry and shoes spilled out of plastic bags and crates.
Kysar stole so much stuff that he could not fit it all in his home. Inside a storage unit he rented, detectives found 60 suitcases, $870 in cash and $680 worth of jewelry.
''This is one of the worst cases my office has ever seen,'' Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Molly Newton told the judge. ''This is completely off the charts. It's ridiculous.''
At some airports - but not those in the Washington region - travelers are required to show their baggage claim stickers before they are allowed to leave the airport. In the United States, airport officials said, the stationing of guards in baggage claim areas is at the discretion of the airlines, not the airports.
The trust that travelers place in the baggage system was breached by Kysar's scheme, said defense attorney Leon Demsky. Hundreds of people lost ''sentimental items, mementos, things they will never recover,'' he said.
Authorities did not suspect anything until victims reported that their credit cards had been used and someone had forged their signatures on personal checks. Two of the checks were used at grocery stores where Kysar was captured on surveillance video.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press