AUSTIN - Federal authorities have charged a baggage handler at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after he allegedly stole firearms from passenger bags and traded some of the stolen guns for marijuana.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office states Ja’Quan Johnson, 25, of Austin surrendered to FBI agents Wednesday morning. Authorities say in a criminal complaint that Johnson stole the weapons between Nov. 29, 2016 and Feb. 2, 2017, and that Austin police have recovered seven firearms that authorities say Johnson stole. In a Thursday briefing, police said their investigation began when a man reported his gun missing after he checked it for a flight. Seven other weapons were reported stolen between November and early February.
APD said the organized crime division secured search warrants for Johnson's home after surveillance and watching employee card swipes. While serving those warrants, police arrested Matthew Bartlett, 21, and Catronn Hewitt, 36, on felony marijuana charges. Investigators say Johnson traded the guns for marijuana, but did not provide a specific amount.
Johnson is a contract employee with ABIA, and KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman report he passed a background check.
The complaint charges Johnson with theft from an interstate shipment and possession of stolen firearms. If convicted, Johnson faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each charge.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office added “Johnson was released on personal recognizance bond following his initial court appearance."
APD said they feel confident they have addressed all known theft of firearm cases, but ask anyone who feels their firearm was stolen from checked baggage at ABIA to call Detective Westling at 512-530-7540.
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