KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An investigation of Hawaiian Airlines baggage handlers accused of stealing items from checked luggage in Maui has widened.
Sources say 11 employees total are now on leave, some with pay and some without pay.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms started investigating the case this summer, after two law enforcement officers had their guns stolen from their checked bags while at the Kahului Airport.
Three men were arrested, and subsequently released pending an investigation.
Since Hawaii News Now broke the story on October 9, eight more employees have been accused of stealing various items from the luggage of passengers including Vernon Ikeda. The Wailuku man had hundreds of dollars in dried aku and fish hooks stolen from his cooler which he checked for the Honolulu to Kahului flight just days before the arrests.
"It's a shame," says Ikeda, "They increase the bag fees and then our bags, our luggage get treated like this." Ikeda says the airlines reimbursed him for the cost of the items taken, but he says that didn't make it better. "What I really wanted was I wanted the products because I cannot get those products on Maui, those hooks nor the fish."
The eight additional employees being investigated have not been arrested. Sources say they're all friends. Some are lead ramp agents while others are ramp agents.
The FBI is reviewing more than 1,200 text messages sent within the suspected theft ring.
In a statement, Hawaiian Airlines credited their corporate security department for conducting the initial investigation. Their findings were turned over to authorities.