Man Loses Job at Yankee Stadium After Baggage Handler Hides Cocaine in His Luggage

A baggage handler planted cocaine in a Delta passenger’s luggage. The drugs were found at customs on arrival in New York. The passenger lost his job at Yankee stadium and spent a night in jail. He’s now won a judgment against Delta for $759,000.

The man was flying from Georgetown Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana to New York JFK, a route Delta abandoned in mid-2013.

When going through Customs he declared “cooked rabbit” in his bags. So he got a secondary screening, where border patrol officers found three bricks of cocaine. It turns out,

his bag was indeed tampered with after he had checked his luggage.

A corrupt baggage handler apparently tied a ribbon to the suitcase containing the illicit drugs so it would be recognized by an accomplice in New York City, according to court papers.

Roger Levans lost his security guard license, so could no longer continue working in that position at Yankee stadium. He ultimately got his license back, but not the prime posting. He was moved to a construction site for less pay. He never got his cooked rabbit back.

But five years after the incident he won a verdict for about three quarters of a million dollars. He won’t be seeing the money any time soon, however, as Delta plans to appeal because “the airline was not responsible for whoever put the drugs in Levans’ bag.”

It sure seems, though, like they should pay what a court has ordered them to pay given the harm caused this man after he checked his bags with Delta. Don’t you think?

(HT: Loyalty Lobby)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Levans rightly sued Delta because Delta is who he had a contract with (his plane ticket). If Delta thinks it’s the baggage handler’s fault then Delta should turn around and sue the baggage company (who Delta has a contract with).

  2. In an era where politicians are ready to “accept responsibility” but neither step down nor fire any staff, it is not surprising that an airline claims they cannot accept responsibility for such an incident.

    However, as customers we implicitly expect to have our check bags to arrive as we deposited them – if they do not then the airline should pay. If they have to hire additional staff, especially in troubled spots, to provide an audit of the baggage handling process then they should raise fares to ensure there are no issues.

    In the meantime the courts awarding customers for such problems is a good step. In fact being able to sue the government (similar to any business), government officials/managers (similar to corporate officers), and especially the IRS may go a long way towards creating a culture of responsibility and accountability.

  3. @ Andrew- good point on the contract- looking at the one Mr Levans agreed to when he purchased his ticket, Delta’s liability with respect to checked baggage is capped at $640 (also governed by the Warsaw Convention).

    Cheap Pete- I don’t know if your implicit expectation is necessarily a legal right. I think we all have an implicit expectation that our flight will take off and arrive on time, there will be edible food and a courteous flight attendant- but I don’t think we have the right to sue for emotional distress if the airlines doesn’t meet those expectations.

    Now, Mr Levans obviously suffered much more damages than bad food or a late flight, but the airline’s liability is the same- it’s all governed by the contract of carriage.

  4. @george I think you make a fair point. However, regardless of the microscopic fine print, a base expectation in turning your bags over an airline is that no one will tamper with them. Having a criminal act take place that puts your entire free life in jeopardy, costs you 000’s, results in reduced employment opportunities…, take place under Delta’s care only to have them say $650 is all we owe does not quite pass any common sense sniff test (cocaine pun intended).

  5. If the TSA had done this, would the passenger have any legal recourse?

  6. It was nice to see a picture of OLD Yankee Stadium, the one that was torn down after the 2008 season. My first indicator was the missing “2009” from the list of dates the Yankees won the World Series.

    I realize this has nothing to do with the story, but it always pleases me to find something out of place!

  7. My question is how does one prevent this type of thing happening to one’s luggage? Is this why people in some parts of the world have their luggage wrapped in plastic? I find this scary as there is no way to know what happens to one’s luggage when it is outside of one’s possession.

  8. Something’s missing here. If the passenger got his bags how was the NYC accomplice supposed to get the cocaine?

  9. I guess Delta will try and argue that it was a baggage handler from their contractor in Guyana that committed the crime, hence it wasn’t Delta who was directly negligent, and that the plaintiff should go after the contracting company, or the baggage handler who actually did the horrid deed.

    I know that Delta should not be let off the hook for this; just because it was a procured contractor. But the more I think about it, the more I think that Delta can wiggle out of this.

    One thing, in both cases, neither Delta nor the plaintiff have a chance in hell of holding anyone to justice in Guyana. Let alone being able to collect even a mere $750,000. Lucky the man managed to get his licence back and at least a job; his life could have very easily been absolutely and completely ruined, whereby $750,000 would barely be enough for his inconvenience.

  10. @Stvr The Pax was supposed to just skip customs inspection because he had nothing to declare and then go out the door where the drug dealer would then take (steal) his bag.

    What the PaX did was note that he had food and thus need inspection thus this is where they found the drugs.

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