Car Dealer Rick Case Is Pressing Charges Against a TSA Officer Over a $450 Pen

His mother has already moved to Florida. Puddie's first ride on an airplane, when he is 9, takes him to live there. He eats curry chicken for dinner on the Air Jamaica evening flight, and before landing, he marvels at South Florida's expanse of lights.

This is Toussain Puddie, all grown up: He loves travel, likes wearing a uniform. He thinks about making it back to an airport as a ticket-counter agent. He interviews for a flight-attendant job at Continental's hub in Houston but realizes he's not the type of man who becomes a flight attendant. He works as a concierge at the Tides condominiums. Another job, for a telecommunications company, has him driving solo routes through Florida and Georgia, as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, always circling back to his family and his friends.

He takes the TSA job in April 2009. A decade earlier, this job would have been done by a private-sector employee of a firm like Wackenhut or Argenbright. He would not have received as much training, and he would not have known as much federally protected information. He would not have had undercover federal agents try to sneak dangerous items through the security line every once in a while, just to keep him on his toes.

Defense attorney Leland Garvin may take Puddie's case to trial.
Defense attorney Leland Garvin may take Puddie's case to trial.

But post 9/11, he has a very important job, with a standard-issue blue uniform and a chrome-faced badge. He works all positions, based on what's needed day-to-day. His favorites are watching the baggage x-ray monitor and conducting bag checks. He thinks he's good at the checks and efficient. He removes the suspicious sections from bags, runs them back through the machine, sorts out the items. He's puzzled and amused by the people who bring little Ziploc bags of sand back home from Florida. He makes about $12,000 a year with good benefits, working 20 hours a week part-time, like many of his fellow TSA officers.

He makes conversation with passengers so that they feel more at ease. During football season, he asks the passengers wearing jerseys about the score. When he sits at the podium and shines a little ultraviolet light on passports and driver's licenses, people sometimes ask him if he ever smiles. Then he smiles, which he does a lot, actually, and thinks, "Man, that's not me at all."

This is Toussain Puddie as an accused felon: He looks meaner in his mug shot than he does in person, broader, with an unshorn beard and v-neck jail scrubs. Thirty years old and six feet tall, he is "the defendant who is employed by the Transportation Security Administration in the capacity of a screener."


At Aventura Mall, ten minutes in traffic from the house with painted-on shutters where Puddie grew up, a well-suited clerk with silvered hair pulls a pen out of a glass case. Wearing gloves, he rests it in a box lined with velvet.

This isn't The Pen that Rick Case got in Europe, but it's the same model, introduced in 2007 and put together by hand at the Montblanc factory in the suburbs of Hamburg: the Starwalker Metal Rubber, Model No. 08857. It's heavy in the palm, balancing out across the fingers. The surface is hard and rubberized for grip, appearing graphite-gray in some lights and black in others. It's divided by intersecting lines of inset chrome. The barrel bulges out like a bullet point where the fingers grasp it; the silver clip curves assertively.

At the top of the pen is a clear polycarbonate dome, with a six-peaked star — the Montblanc logo, representing the namesake mountain's six glaciers — floating inside, suspended. Inside the pen's tightly threaded casing is a disposable ballpoint ink barrel, braced by a spring. Fountain-tip models are available, but this one, like Case's, is a standard twist-out.

Case's daughter told authorities that the pen was worth $450. Later, on the phone with police, Case recalled that he had bought it in Europe, where it cost about 300 euros. Ira Magsil, the loss prevention manager for Montblanc North America, said in a sworn statement that the pen's retail value is $470 and would only go up over the years.

So this is the item that rolled around in the bottom of a plastic tub for a few minutes on June 5, before supervisor Silvano Leger found it and handed it to lead officer Theo Vaca so he could announce its presence over the public-address system. Vaca made the announcement, which Case evidently did not hear down by the gate, and put the pen back into a plastic bowl for lost items.

Shortly afterward, Puddie arrived for his part-time afternoon shift, parking at the top floor of the rental-car garage and taking the elevated walkway to the checkpoint. Already in uniform, he signed in on the clipboard near the office, checked his assignment for the day, and passed the next five hours without incident.

Five minutes before 6 o'clock, Puddie went to see his supervisor in the office for clearance to end his shift. Then he went to the sharp-objects cabinet, just outside the office door, next to the flagpole. On top of it was the sign-out clipboard — and The Pen.

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75 comments
Starman
Starman

I just hope BSO will give me the same equal time and attention if I ever lose something. It would only be fair, I pay my taxes just like mr. Case does.

Kalmia16
Kalmia16

PROSECUTE this piece of crap to the fullest extent of the law.

TSA luggage screener accused of stealing passenger's electronicsA Transportation Security Administration employee may have had a keen eye for screening luggage, but authorities say he also had sticky fingers.Nelson Santiago, 30, of Hollywood, was arrested Monday on two counts of grand theft after a Continental Airlines employee at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport accused Santiago of stealing an iPad electronic tablet out of someone's luggage and stuffing it in his pants. During questioning, Santiago told Broward Sheriff's detectives he stole electronics from plane passengers' luggage to sell online — often posting the items for sale and cashing in on them during the same shift, officials said.www.palmbeachpost.com/new...

Ceh9876
Ceh9876

Prosecute aggressively, just as the tsa does to US citizens.

dawashingtons
dawashingtons

I DONT GIVE A DAM! IF IT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU DONT TOUCH IT! IF HE STOLE A PEN I WONDER WHAT ELSE HE HAS TAKEN FROM PASSENGERS... FOOD FOR THOUGHT PEOPLE!

DisgustedbytheRich
DisgustedbytheRich

Rick Case is an A-hole to press charges. I will never buy a car from him.

Cygnet36
Cygnet36

There are many reasons to attach sentiment to such a pen. My diseased daughter gave one to her husband n their anniversary the year before she passed on. I'm sure it held some sentimental valuie to him, and he nwould fel very bad at its loss. Maybe the TSA's need  to be given some trasining in determining hw valuable items are that they come into contact with. They seem to be given enough training in intimidatng travelers.

Sean
Sean

This article is a bloated mess of nonsense. The writer tosses so many facts that are in no way germane to the story out there, largely in order to curry sympathy for the thief (and by the way, the reason Case was flying a "budget airline," which Frontier is not anyway, is because their hub is in Denver, and is the only way to fly there without making a connection).

There is no justification for a TSA agent taking a traveler's personal property home. None. The level of the traveler's wealth makes no difference. We have already abdicated much of our dignity to the TSA when traveling. The least they could do is consider our belongings sacrosanct.

Mr. Puddie made a mistake, but it was not an honest one. His actions have resulted in consequences, which should deter someone from repeating this mistake in the future.

Karmic
Karmic

I am glad they can spend so much money/man power/ polygraph testing people when you lose a precious sentimental pen, KUDOS for them.

Larry S
Larry S

Worst. Journalism. Ever.

Every hear of brevity there, Stefan?

A Patriot
A Patriot

TSA and DHS is the American Gestapo, and as such, have earned our disdain.The creeps ruined my laptop which I had in my check in luggage, like a bunch of goons.How abusive do you have to be to destroy a screen and keyboard on a laptop carefully packed away?Their attitude? Tough SH**.Even though Case is being anal, as far as TSA, 'what goes around, comes around'. We need to disband that fascist organization.Let's see if the website permits this much free speech on here. lol

Sedonabear09
Sedonabear09

I have the "Midnight" version of that pen. Love it. Of course, anything Mont Blanc is going to be an exquisite and very coveted item. I will commend the TSA goon for his taste. But, theft is theft, and I have to agree with the Singaporean approach to deterring such crimes, especially if you're a pubic official... Public caning.

Outland10
Outland10

Too bad you have to have such a relationship with the Sheriff to get help. Everyone should press charges against the TSA when they can--it is the only way TSA will change or (better yet) be replaced for good. 

TroubleB
TroubleB

"I was scared."

Any how many people did you scare daily with your TSA gestapo tactics? I'm having crocodile tears over your plight. Hopefully your fellow pondscum will all lose their jobs as well.

Thisismysn
Thisismysn

Let me tell you people about Rick, having met the guy personally. I have a family member that is in the company and all I can say about him is that he is an ass. He never likes to pay his employees properly and has nothing but insults to give his employees.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

It was a PEN, not the Mona Lisa!  Rick Case needs to grow up.  He was the one who left it there.  Maybe its just me, but I could not tell you the difference between all the pens on my desk and a Monte Blanke so I am pretty sure Puddie would not either.  Maybe if Case was more responsible and kept track of his pen, then it would not have been picked up by some guy who thought it was just like any other pen.The case should be dropped as it is a waste of money and time.

Dan Kozisek
Dan Kozisek

Puddie is a state sponsored sex offender. The sooner he is put behind bars under any pretext the safer we all will be.

John
John

I know it's just a pen but it is amazing how the author of this article makes the pen owner (no matter who he is) out to be the bad guy and the thief as the victim!

HANK
HANK

Nice. My house was robbed guns, jewelry, electronics, passports ect. Were taken. Called cops they showed about an hour later.  Three days later get a call from detective to confirm and told to pick up police report from the station. Haven’t heard a word since going on two years now.   To bad I didn’t have a pen with sentimental value taken or is it the mill in kickback/donations for the lack of response

disqusisgaythisprogramsucks
disqusisgaythisprogramsucks

Good for Rick, the TSA's are glorified mall cop a*#holes, who operate in an enviroment of corruption and thievery, hes probably the one who strip searched the old lady.  Does Mr. Case have a V.W. dealership? Because Vista VW and Gunther VW are garbage.  Thanks for this feel good story.Charge this thief with the police investigation costs also

Chc946
Chc946

Took my car to his dealership for estimates on radio repair and headliner. Declined their quote and went to pick it up- they had the wheels off for "inspection" and charged me $165 for labor to do it. I was robbed - it's only fair - you reap what you sow, and he can afford it more than me!

ftl
ftl

oh really?   Can I have your car for a few weeks?  I promise I give it back....  just need it for a while.

Dalelau7
Dalelau7

just because he is rich does not matter i guess the pen was important to him.at any other job you would be fired and prosecuted very sad ,but i guess thats the law

J
J

Wow, makes the guy look so petty. Got your precious pen back, let it be. Going to ruin someones life. On top to write an apology?? Please.. 

fredftl
fredftl

It's a PEN! And you expect someone earning $12,000 to recognize that it's a $400 pen.

Case should be embarrased that he's pressing charges on this and the Sheriff's department should be embarrased about the amount of time, effort and $$$ they have spent trying to find the pen that some idiot left behind at airport security.

And now a man's life has been ruined because of all of this. Absolutely shameful.

Rick Case should make this right.

Guest
Guest

It's a pen and he got the pen back. I would prefer to walk the rest of my life than ever....ever purchasing a car from Case.  Unbelievable that a millionaire would insist on pressing charges.  It's a pen.... how many time have you left a pen or walked off with someone else's.   I am so dissapointed.

Jason Tarlowe
Jason Tarlowe

Your telling me a TSA Agent doesn't know that a Mount Blanc pen is worth substantial money (minimum $50)? Are you serious? They deal with items like that ALL DAY LONG. And then he knew it was valuable when the announcement was made, and decided to take it anyway. If he stole $450 cash from a passenger we wouldn't be having this conversation.  We entrust TSA agents with ALL of our property at the airport - everything in our person and everything in our bag (they often do hand inspections).  You need a zero-tolerance stealing policy because if you let them steal something worth $50 or $450, where does it end?  I'm sorry I have no sympathy. Thank god Case has the connections to get this done - I have had stuff stolen in my opinion by Delta bag handlers in JFK (notorious apparently for this if you read the Internet reports according to others) and only wish I had this pull...maybe now they will think twice.

And it gives other TSA agents, most of whom are ethical, a bad name. The ones who never steal should never be tainted by such as Puddle.

Randy Roberts
Randy Roberts

I'll never buy a car from Case, he just lost all respect from me. This is what the "Occupy" movement is all about. Greedy rich people who pull favors from officials with contributions and lobbying. Hopefully this triggers an investigation into Case's practices. I'd love to see that greedy, vindictive bastard go down.

Metsfan27
Metsfan27

Tell him I'll buy an air freshener from him.  Least I could do.  But I'll never buy a car from Rick Case.

Fernando Too-Mazote
Fernando Too-Mazote

I think Rik Case needs to speak to mr puddie and talk itover and forgtet about the incident, this guy case is a millinonaire , puddie us hard working man who never meant to steal anything. Please get Puddie job back and drop the charges Mr Case. Please

VinoJon
VinoJon

Amen, brother. The TSA is a bloated mess of undertrained monkey idiots who cost the tax payers billions while conferring zero benefit for the money spent. That someone in our media would side with the thief is a sad commentary on what we as a nation think of the value of our rights. 

ftl
ftl

Do you know the difference between a bently and a camry? 

you would if you sat in both... same for a bic and a mont blanc pen.

and how would the victim make this right? he should allow someone to take what is his?

Can I have your car? just need it for a few weeks? how about your house and some cash too?

ftl
ftl

he was REQUIRED BY LAW to leave the pen in the dish.  he forgot to get it.  (lost).

Stealing is when you take something you do not own.  and what make it worse is his position is what allowed him to take it.

DavidFairbanks
DavidFairbanks

The screenings, in their current form, are a violation of our constitutional rights. This makes them unethical. Anyone in the TSA is therefore acting unethically every day as a part of their job. If a TSA agent suddenly became concerned with ethics, they should resign.

 
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