WASHINGTON, June 25, 2013 – The FBI is investigating the disappearance of $1.2 million in cash from a Swiss Air passenger jet that landed in New York’s JFK International Airport on Monday. It is unclear when or how the money went missing.
The missing cash was part of a $93 million cash shipment destined for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Three crates containing the cash were transported in a sealed larger shipping container aboard the passenger flight.
The money disappeared somewhere between Zurich—flight 17’s point of origin on Saturday—and the time the container was unloaded in JFK on Monday afternoon. The theft was not discovered until the official count in the Federal Reserve Bank’s offices in lower Manhattan on Monday evening.
The missing cash was in $100 bills in 12 bundles of $100,000. According to the U.S. Treasury, $1.2 million in $100 bills weighs around 22 pounds, which can be carried somewhat inconspicuously.
“The crates remained sealed until yesterday,” said an official at JFK to ABC News. “That’s when the seal was broken.”
According to the same source, a forklift operator noticed damage when he opened the sealed crate in New York. Despite admitting under questioning that “it was a hole large enough to put your arm in,” the operator claims he did not think he was required to report it because the damage appeared to be a routine puncture from a forklift. The operator also claims that the position of the crate hid the damage from view until the larger container was opened and the crates were removed.
Since the seal on the larger cargo container seems not to have been tampered with, authorities suspect that the cash may have been taken even before it got on the flight.
“When it got here, the money was missing,” FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said to ABC.
The airline and Port Authority officials are declining to comment on an “active investigation.”
This is, however, not the first time JFK has been at the center of a cargo robbery. Perhaps the most well known is the 1978 Lufthansa heist made famous by Martin Scorsese in his movie “Goodfellas,” at the time the largest cash heist on U.S. soil.
In November of 2012 an elaborate scheme was successful in stealing about 3,600 iPad minis that had arrived at JFK from China to be shipped to U.S. customers. Last March an operation involving thousands of packages stolen at JFK’s U.S. postal Service mail-processing facility was discovered.
The large cash shipment was not unusual. According to “a source with direct knowledge” quoted in The New York Post, airlines regularly transport large sums of cash, which can total up to $1 billion on a single flight.
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