By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)– CBS4 has learned that an employee at Denver International Airport has been fired and charged with rifling through passengers’ checked bags on three occasions, and stealing guns out of their luggage.

(credit: CBS)

The worker, Melvin Deandre Lewis, 24, worked for Air Serv, a vendor that handles bags and other services for airlines. According to court documents and interviews, Denver police believe Lewis opened United Airlines passengers checked bags and stole firearms in April and on two occasions in May.

(credit: CBS)

Contacted by CBS4, Lewis denied being involved in the thefts.

”No, that was never me… that’s not me,” said Lewis. “I never took anything out of no bag. I’m not really worried about it.”

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass interviews Melvin Lewis. (credit: CBS)

Denver prosecutors have now charged Lewis with multiple felony counts in connection with the gun thefts.

Air Serv fired Lewis and his airport security badge was pulled June 1.

DIA Police Commander Tony Lopez (credit: CBS)

DIA police commander Tony Lopez told CBS4, “We’re confident his arrest sent a message to anyone else at DIA in that function that intends to commit a crime that crime doesn’t pay.”

Lopez acknowledged there has been an upswing in reports of items being stolen out of checked bags at DIA but he said that could be due to a commensurate increase in passenger traffic at the airport.

(credit: CBS)

”We’ve seen an increase in reports. With growth you would expect an increase in reports.”

CBS4 reviewed reports filed by DIA passengers for the first six months of 2017 and found passengers reporting everything from watches and earrings, to laptops and sentimental items, stolen out of their checked bags.

A New Jersey prosecutor’s office investigator who had just attended a conference on terrorist bombings in Denver reported his bag was looted at DIA and hundreds of dollars of belongings were stolen.

(credit: CBS)

However, DIA officials say with nearly 11 million bags checked at the airport each year, the number of thefts from luggage is a tiny percentage of checked bags moving through the airport.

Laura Daily and her friend Lyn Schaefer believe their bags were pilfered at DIA in April. The two women were flying to Europe for a cruise vacation they had been planning for a year. They say they arrived at DIA and checked their bags three hours before their flight departed.

Lyn Schaefer (credit: CBS)

But, when they arrived in Lisbon via United Airlines, the women say locks had been cut off their bags and Schaefer’s suitcase had been looted. She said every cosmetic and toiletry bag had been opened and dumped out and a purse valued at about $145 was missing. There was no note or card from TSA found in either suitcase.

(credit: CBS)

“It just felt dirty”, said Schaeffer. ”Someone had gone through my stuff.”

Daily suspects the neon orange “priority” tags affixed to their bags might have tipped someone off that they were travelers with higher value items in their luggage.

(credit: CBS)

“Obviously someone in baggage handling is cherry picking suitcases with the Priority tags figuring those passengers with higher status likely have something worth stealing,” said Daily. “I think this is like catnip to someone in baggage. You’re probably a traveler who might have something valuable in your suitcase.”

Schaefer said that after filing a complaint with United about her missing purse, the airline repaid her about $145 to cover the cost of the stolen item.

(credit: CBS)

Lopez said his officers “do painstaking work to try to identify responsible parties” connected to the luggage thefts.

He acknowledged thefts from luggage at DIA are challenging since travelers typically wait until they return to Denver from vacation- sometimes weeks later- before reporting thefts.

(credit: CBS)

“The delay in reporting makes it harder,” said Lopez.

Erin Benson, a representative of United Airlines, issued a statement in response to the CBS4 report reading, “United holds all of our employees and vendors to the highest standards and requires them to follow all applicable laws and regulations.”

She did not provide further information or answer additional questions.

Lewis is due in court Oct. 2.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

Comments (26)
  1. Fred Smith says:

    It’s easy to stop the thefts, stop hiring minorities as baggage handlers. Every single report I’ve seen had minorities as the perps just like this one.

    1. Assuming you are white, as I believe that white is the new minority in the group. So whites are doing this or is it just bad people? Sorry but your comment comes of as somewhat racist. Not everyone in the majority or minority are bad people and it’s unfair to paint everyone with the same brush.

      1. It’s a damn shame that there is more than a smidgen of truth to what he said, but go ahead and ignore reality. Now tell us how unjust it is that the prison population is made up of a disproportionate percentage of you-know-who. Then again, be proud of this man. He’s probably a young entrepreneur with Chicago connections out to make a buck. Racist on my part? Perhaps, but I’m tired of being correct every time I click on a story to see if I’m wrong, only to sigh that I’m right once again. There’s a serious problem with a certain culture and you should stop making excuses for them. Sure, not all, but too many. Maybe they should look to the Asian community for tips on how to succeed in life. Forget the whites, they’re going downhill. They’ve picked up too many bad habits.

      2. jayesouthworth says:

        Time and time again the pictures the news media shows are 99% of the time blacks committing these crimes. For a while, the media refused to show the pics of the perps, but you could tell by the name that they were black. go back and look at news reports such as this, and the ethnic groups are always black. It’s not racists at all to call it what it is, they can’t seem to help themselves or better yet help themselves to other people’s stuff.

  2. I had a pistol, ammunition, and magazines stolen from baggage in Atlanta airport. I told TSA, they did nothing, I told the airline, they did nothing. Atlanta airport police did nothing. A firearm and ammunition were unaccounted for in a “secure” area of airport and no one cared. but we have to get damn near naked to get on the plane. TSA = worthless rip off of the flying public.

  3. Ross Phipps says:

    i could not believe my eyes when i saw his picture

    1. Yeah, It’s a darn shame having one’s suspicions proven correct all the time.

  4. I’m shocked, shocked that an affirmative action hire would stoop to thievery!

  5. It should be a federal offense for an unauthorized person to open a piece of luggage with a minimum sentence of five years in federal prison. The picture of that person should be posted in the baggage area. This is getting old.

  6. Richard Frey says:

    Don’t Fly, Drive or Charter a Jet like I do……

  7. Bill Smith says:

    Sir, very few of us can afford to charter a jet like *you* do ̶ and I have yet to figure out a way to drive to Hawaii. Any other great ideas? ;-)

    1. I do. Just don’t fly. Take a boat or, better yet, vacation on the Mainland. There are plenty of places on the mainland to see. Sorry Hawaii, :)

  8. I travel with my “traveling companion”, a 9mm Beretta, which I check per the rules. What I do is attach the locked metal box (which I have the only key) to the frame of the luggage I use for the transport.

    I check for the metal box as soon I get back control of the luggage by reaching in and feeling for the box. If I can, I go the men’s room and arm up.

    If the bag disappears, I go to the airlines’ person responsible for luggage, and tell them if they can not find the luggage in 30 minutes, I have all the numbers of the FAA to report a gun lose in the sterile area of some airport.

  9. Alan Whitney says:

    While White America was once a millstone around the neck of American Negro population, the situation seems to have reversed…

  10. John Butts says:

    As Gomer Pyle would say: SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE………

  11. Due in Court on October 2 and we, the public, will never hear the outcome as they slap him on the wrist and say, ‘you naughty little boy, don’t let me catch you doing it again.’

  12. Another of many good reasons to avoid flying with the “crowd”…

  13. If the baggage handler hadn’t stolen it then TSA would have. Take nothing of value that you want to keep in check-in airline luggage. If you can’t FedEx to your destination then leave it at home.

  14. Another dindu supplying illegal guns to the ghetto slaughter and blaming the NRA. Gun grabbers need to demand thast stealing a gun is an automatic five years with no parole and the same with possession of a stolen gun.


  16. hitrestart1 says:

    Why not have camera’s on luggage every aspect of their journey from the point the traveler checks them in to the point the traveler picks them up? Or have baggage handlers wear cameras like cops have to. If airlines regarded their customers as anything above cattle, they could put an end to the endless thieving.

  17. Are TSA screeners using their xray vision to tell baggage handlers which bags to hit?