Airport Worker Charged with Stealing from $96 Million Federal Reserve Shipment

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Jim Young / Reuters

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (L) and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke leave a ceremony to debut the new design for the US$100 note at the Department of the Treasury in Washington, April 21, 2010.

An airport baggage handler allegedly pilfered a tiny fraction of the $96 million shipment of cash being hauled to New Jersey, but it wasn’t difficult to see that $20,000 was missing from the meticulously-controlled transport. Even more glaring about Alex Price’s alleged theft: the $100 bills he stole aren’t even street legal yet. They’re printed with a new design that won’t be unveiled until 2013.

Price, a baggage handler for US Airways, was arrested Tuesday for the theft of the bills on Oct. 11. But he didn’t even get to make use of his copped currency. For the past two weeks the stack of bills has languished in his Nissan Maxima largely because the stolen money was too new to even be in circulation yet.

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The stash of cash was on its way to the Federal Reserve Building in East Rutherford, N.J., from Dallas. But even a $96 million shipment apparently can’t get a direct flight to its destination, so the flight landed at Philadelphia International Airport.

From the flight, bags of money were loaded onto a Dunbar armored car for transport to New Jersey. It was when the bags were offloaded from the armored car for inventory that officials realized one shipment had been opened. “The money was taken sometime between the flight landing at Philadelphia International Airport and the arrival at the Federal Reserve facility in East Rutherford, N.J.,” FBI special agent John Cosenza told NBC News in Philadelphia.

As the FBI traced the crime over the past weeks, Price denied his involvement. But after three interviews and an unforgiving polygraph test, Price confessed, police say. He then took authorities to his car, where the money was hidden in a bag.

While the FBI alerted merchants to the theft, keeping an eye out for the stolen bills would have been rather easy, since all the bills in the 2013 design feature the number 100 in orange on the back, an orange blob — said to resemble the Liberty Bell — and other blue and green color features, some in 3-D, designed to thwart counterfeiting. And this time, at least, they were able to catch a thief, too.

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