EXCLUSIVE: The case of the stolen cockpit codes

Thursday, August 03, 2017 08:28AM
Jim Hoffer has the exclusive details on theft of a flight attendant's belongings.

NEW YORK - She's a seasoned flyer and a veteran flight attendant for a major airline, so Celeste Abbatematteo has seen it all, but what happened to her a few weeks ago has left her a bit shaken.

"This is what was left in it: two water bottles and my flight manual was inside (a) pocket," Abbatematteo said.

Her bag with her uniform and flight attendant manual was stolen at JFK Airport. The bag was found the next day, but empty accept for two water bottles. Gone were her airline operating manual and instructional material that included the code to the airlines' cockpit doors.

"This is not just a normal bag with normal clothes and effects in it. It's some confidential information in this city that was most affected by 9/11," she said.

Concerned that the cockpit door code could get into the wrong hands, Abbatematteo immediately went to authorities.

"So I went to try and find a police officer and he said 'it's not his job; it's Customs and Immigration officers' job.' So for about a week, they pointed fingers at each other and no one would even take my report," Abbatematteo said.

She was stunned by the apathy on the part of U.S. Customs and Port Authority Police especially, she says, when considering the theft of such security sensitive content.

"So I called the department over 22 times in the past several weeks. I'm trying to get somebody to look into my case and at least get a hold of the video surveillance," Abbatematteo said.

But by the time Port Authority Police contacted her 11 days later, the security video at Customs had been recorded over. She also says Port Authority Police in its report on the case downplayed the theft.

"It wasn't even reported as a criminal complaint?" 7 On Your Side Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"Correct!" Abbatematteo said.

"But as lost property?" Hoffer asked.

"Yeah, my complaint was to say that this was a criminal matter and I gave them all the details I just gave you, and instead of putting larceny, he put lost property and referred me to the lost and found," Abbatematteo said.

The Port Authority, in a statement, says the flight attendant did not tell police about the missing uniform or aircraft door codes when reporting her bag stolen. They added that the Port Authority followed up with the airline to ensure the aircraft door codes had been changed.

But Abbatematteo insists she gave Port Authority Police and Customs specifics about the contents, but she claims there was no urgency.

"I feel like I tried to give them information and they just blew me off and didn't take me seriously and do their job," she said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded saying that they take "allegations of missing and stolen luggage very seriously."

This story came to us through our tip line. If you have a story you want us to investigate, you can call us at 877-TIP-NEWS.
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