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TSA Officers Take a Passenger's Pen? Grand Theft. They Take $400,000? All in a Year's Work.

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If you've flown recently, you probably have some dim memories of loose change rattling around in a plastic bin at the security checkpoint. If you're careful, you pour all those coins back into your bag or pocket before heading to the gate.

If you don't, the Transportation Security Administration keeps the change. And over a year, that change adds up to a lot of money.

We told you the story of a TSA officer who took home a passenger's $450 pen -- and now faces grand theft charges. In the case of the loose change, though, nobody's pressing charges.

The TSA announced that it had collected $409,085.56 worth of loose change in calendar year 2010. That money goes to fund TSA operations (if it's not skimmed off the top by screeners making a trip to the vending machines).

A spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that the TSA tries to reunite the change with its owners -- though there are limited ways to claim it. ("Yeah, it was a bunch of round metal -- shiny, copper, and sort of silver-colored. Jingled around. Have you seen it?")

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida wants to divert the money to fund military welcome centers around the globe.

"Allowing TSA to keep unclaimed taxpayer money for any and all purposes is an egregious breach of its duty to the public that it serves," wrote Miller in a letter to the House homeland security chairman.

Meanwhile, Toussain Puddie, the TSA screener who took a pen left behind by car dealer Rick Case at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in June, is negotiating a deal with the state to possibly avoid a trial for grand theft.


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