Marsha Henry, JetBlue agent, accused of stealing Andre Deshong's wallet in Fort Lauderdale airport

Hidden camera helps authorities zoom in on theft

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Somewhere between the airport gate in Fort Lauderdale and grandma's waiting arms in New York, someone pinched the 11-year-old boy's wallet.

According to investigators, it was a JetBlue Airlines gate agent whose job it was to make sure that little Andre Deshong got to his seat safely during his annual summer trip to see his nana in New York.

The agent, Marsha Henry, 33, of Plantation, denies it was her who pilfered the wallet, but investigators with the Broward Sheriff's Office say surveillance video shows her coming out of the jetway with the boy's wallet.

The incident is the latest in South Florida where hidden cameras at Fort Lauderdale's airport have aided in the arrest of a suspected thief.

In May, Sean Maxwell, 44, and his wife Lorina Flint, 42, were arrested and accused of working together to steal luggage from baggage carousels. They were charged in at least five similar — but separate — thefts at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and at Miami International Airport since early March.

In February, police arrested flight passenger Igor Ramos after images caught him allegedly palming a $6,500 Rolex from a security checkpoint bin.

Andre's father, Kamal Deshong, of North Lauderdale, wants to prosecute.

"He's been flying alone for years. You pay extra so he can be safe. You never think this will happen," the father said on Thursday. "There are a lot of kids who travel alone and I want to make sure this doesn't happen to others."

According to police reports, the incident took place on Aug. 7 at JetBlue's F-10 gate of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The father said he placed the child's wallet and an identification card inside a lanyard pouch provided by the airlines. The wallet contained $200 in cash.

The boy told investigators that Henry walked him to his seat and then took some paperwork and the wallet from the pouch. He thought his wallet would be returned when he arrived in New York, the boy told the father.

Deshong said he got a call hours later from his mother in New York saying the son made it safely, but not the wallet.

"I knew immediately something was wrong," he said. "I went straight to the airport."

After a review of surveillance videos at the gate, investigators charged Henry with petit theft and ordered her to appear in court on Sept. 18. A JetBlue spokeswoman said Henry has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.

Henry could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The father said the airlines has already refunded him the $100 "unaccompanied minor" fee. He was told the company is sending him a $200 check.

Deshong believes the incident "was isolated" and said he plans to continue sending Andre to see his grandmother each summer.

The U.S. Department of Transportation doesn't keep track of air passengers by age, but has a safety pamphlet for children flying alone.

Officials with the Transportation Security Administration declined to release the video, citing airport security laws.

TIPS:

Consider the maturity of the child: While airlines allow children as young as five to travel unaccompanied, younger children may not be ready or willing to be in the presence of strangers for several hours, and may not be able to handle unusual situations that they may encounter.

Coordinate with whoever is picking up the child: Make sure that whoever is picking up the child knows all the relevant details of the child's trip and is able to contact either you or the airline to confirm the arrival time of the flight.

Tell your child what to expect during the flight: You should explain clearly to the child what will likely happen during the flight, and what kind of experiences to expect

Discuss appropriate behavior with your child: Make sure you take the time to discuss appropriate behavior with your child. That includes the behavior of other passengers and the child's behavior. If another passenger acts in an inappropriate way, be sure that your child knows to inform a flight attendant or other airline representative.

Review the airline's policies: Every airline has slightly different policies on how they accommodate unaccompanied children. Take special note of their policies for escorting children at connection airports and accommodations in the event that the flight is delayed or diverted.


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