PBIA passenger tries to sneak bag full of weapons through security
By Ken Kaye, Staff Writer
6:40 PM EST, March 8, 2012
The cache was unusually large and threatening: A passenger at Palm Beach International Airport attempted to sneak aboard a carry-on bag loaded with a taser, a four-inch martial arts knife, a box cutter, four rounds of ammunition, two M-80 firecrackers and a shotgun shell.
Punraj Baldeo, 20, of Rockaway, N.Y., was planning to take a Delta flight to New York on Feb. 28 when Transportation Security Administration officials confiscated his arsenal, one of the airport’s largest seizures.
He didn’t tell police why he was carrying so many dangerous items, said Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office spokesman Eric Davis.
“I haven’t the slightest what he was thinking,” Davis said.
The number of intercepted items increases during busy travel seasons, said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz. Frequently, passengers don’t realize which items are prohibited or fail to check their luggage for dangerous items left behind from previous road trips, she said.
“Our officers are always on the alert for the unexpected,” Koshetz said.
And they found it on Wednesday, when an unidentified passenger at Miami International Airport tried to check four suitcases full of marine life, including 163 tropical fish, 24 coral pieces, 12 pond slider turtles, 22 spiders and eels, and eight stony coral marine animals — all alive.
“While we continue to find dangerous weapons such as those in Palm Beach on a daily basis, certainly bags full of sea creatures were not what was anticipated in our officers’ all-in-a-day’s work repertoire,” Koshetz said.
If passengers are caught with a concealed gun or knife, they can expect to be arrested and charged. Usually they are booked into jail, quickly released and given a court date.
Baldeo was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor, and given a notice to appear in court.
“He was only charged with carrying the knife because the rest of it was considered contraband,” Davis said.
In the Miami incident, the passenger placed the marine animals in plastic containers full of water and tried to check them onto an American Airlines flight to Maracaibo, Venezuela.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took custody of the creatures and the passenger was cleared to travel, officials said.
In August, a passenger in Miami bound for Brazil placed seven exotic snakes and three small tortoises into nylon bags and placed them inside his pants. In 2011, a passenger attempted to smuggle a bearded lizard in his pants at Palm Beach International. And in 2007, a man tried to hide a tiny monkey under his shirt and board a Fort Lauderdale to New York flight.
The TSA urges passengers to check its prohibited items list, at tsa.gov, before packing for a trip.
kkaye or 954-572-2085. Blog: sunsentinel.com/kenkaye
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