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

He picked it up, feeling its weight in his hands, which are large and will dwarf the common throwaway Bic. It wasn't unusual for an officer to grab a writing implement and keep it with him, and usually nobody noticed. Usually the pens didn't cost more than a few cents. Puddie wrote the time on the sign-out sheet: "1800" in deep-blue numerals.

Then he twisted the pen closed and put it into his shirt pocket, right under his badge.


The Broward Sheriff's Office has put significant time and manpower into the case of Case's pen. After Raquel Case reported the loss to the BSO office at the airport, Det. Robert Lerner called her to hear the facts again. He obtained copies of written statements from five TSA employees (not including Puddie) about where and when they had seen the pen.

Toussain Puddie confessed to taking the pen and now faces a grand theft charge.
Toussain Puddie confessed to taking the pen and now faces a grand theft charge.
The Montblanc Starwalker, model No. 08857.
Courtesy Montblanc
The Montblanc Starwalker, model No. 08857.

On June 14, nine days after the disappearance, a deputy interrogated Vaca, the officer who had first announced the pen over the intercom. He pressed Vaca to say that he had taken it. "We need to get the pen back," he said. "There is a lot of sentimental value to this pen. The guy who owns it could probably buy a thousand of these pens, OK, but there is a lot of sentimental value."

"I don't have it, sir," said Vaca, laughing incredulously.

Case and his family have contributed thousands of dollars to local and national political candidates, both Democratic and Republican — including a hefty sum toward the campaign funds of Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. Rick and Rita case and their two children, Ryan and Raquel, each donated a maximum $500 to Lamberti in both the primary and the general-election campaigns in 2008. Employees of Rick Case Automotive Group donated even more, giving at least $10,500 to Lamberti's 2008 campaigns. Lamberti's 2012 reelection campaign has not yet filed any finance reports.

In June 2009, the sheriff's office held a news conference to show off its new, two-seat, European-made Smart cars, acquired for workers to zip around the Fort Lauderdale airport. The cars were purchased from Case's dealership.

At the time, Case chased off hints that the car purchase might be payback for his political contribution. He told New Times that he had met Lamberti at a fundraiser and that when the sheriff mentioned he was looking for small, efficient cars to use at the airport and port, "I said, 'You really ought to look at a Smart car.' " His own dealership in Weston was one of the first Smart dealers in South Florida.

At the time, Lamberti refused to answer questions about the deal with Case and declined to respond to criticism that other, non-Honda cars would have been cheaper, more fuel efficient, and easier to maintain than the Smart cars.

Case has also made many philanthropic contributions, hosting a fundraiser for Women in Distress of Broward County and giving away bicycles to children in need. He also has provided some quasi-governmental help.

In 2004, Case approached Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman about setting up a satellite clerk's office inside his six-story Davie dealership (which also houses a barbershop, café, and voting locations for two precincts). Case agreed to front the remodeling costs. Now, citizens head to the dealership to pay for traffic citations, get their licenses reinstated, and even get married at the on-site chapel.

Forman dismisses any suggestion that Case's offer was meant to gain political influence and says that the businessman, with his record of generosity, was simply trying to do a good thing for the community.

Vaca, the TSA officer who announced the pen over the intercom, was brought in for a polygraph test a week after his questioning. He said he did not take the pen, and passed. The following day, Andrew Amato, an officer who started work at 1 p.m. on the day of Case's flight, along with Puddie, also passed a polygraph test.

An hour later, deputies identified Puddie as the man putting The Pen into his shirt pocket on surveillance videotape. Puddie was working his usual shift that day — Wednesday, June 22 — when he was told to report to the BSO office in Terminal 2. He walked downstairs, along the sidewalk that borders the arrivals roadway, and into the office. A detective told him to take a seat and lectured him about the difference between accidentally taking something and knowingly stealing.

The detectives showed him a picture of the pen. Puddie realized why he was there and what he had done. He never thought the investigation would come this far, and the weeks since the incident had only magnified the damage. He told the detectives that the pen was in his apartment.

They drove him home immediately in the back of a detective's unmarked car. When they got to his girlfriend's home at the Isles in Plantation, he asked the detectives if they could let him go in alone, because he didn't want his girlfriend to know what was going on. They obliged, waiting outside.

"You're home early!" called Puddie's girlfriend from another room.

"Yeah, I just had to come get something," Puddie called, looking around for the pen. "I've got to rush back to work." He left without seeing her and handed over 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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