Toussain Puddie used to work as a TSA security screener at Terminal 1 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport -- until he told police last month that he had taken home a pen belonging to local car dealership owner Rick Case. Case decided to press charges, despite Puddie's cooperation in returning the pen.
According to police, Case was preparing to board a Frontier Airlines flight out of Fort Lauderdale on June 5 when he and his wife were selected for special TSA screening. Case removed his $450 black-and-white Montblanc pen from his pocket and placed it in a basket. His wife carried the family cat through the x-ray machine.
Case didn't realize that he forgot the pen at the TSA checkpoint. His daugher Raquel called BSO the following day to report the pen stolen. She told BSO deputies that Case thought he had left the pen at the checkpoint.
A deputy responded to the checkpoint but didn't find anything. Puddie, a 30-year-old TSA employee, says he had seen the pen on top of a filing cabinet and, not knowing it was anything but a stray pen someone had left, took it home.
"I didn't think the pen was worth more than ten bucks," says Puddie.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, on June 22, when he realized the gravity of his action. Police talked with TSA employees, conducting an investigation. Puddie was called into the BSO office at the airport.
"The police told me all he wanted was his pen back," Puddie recalls. He says that he told police he had the pen and that a deputy then drove him to his home, where he retrieved the pen, and drove him back to the airport.
Then he says deputies told him to sit down and wait. When a deputy returned, Puddie says, "He told me that the owner wanted to press charges."
Puddie had worked at the TSA since April 2009 but was fired after being arrested. The BSO arrest report says Puddie confessed to taking the pen after he was read his Miranda rights.
Puddie says he didn't initially tell anyone he had the pen because "I didn't want to get in trouble."
He spent about 30 hours in jail and was released. He faces grand theft charges. According to police, "The defendant did temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of a right or benefit to his property."
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What motivated the two-week hunt for Rick Case's pen? It might be standard procedure, but perhaps BSO is on high alert for TSA thefts after our story of an iPad disappearing down a screener's pants.