Parked for days at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the yellow Ford Crown Victoria had expired Florida plates and a telltale sag in the rear.
Suspecting explosives, police investigated.
“It’s an airport,’’ said Joe Pentangelo, public information officer for the Port Authority Police Department. “So security is an issue.’’
Instead of thwarting a terrorist plot, though, police said they uncovered a small-time scheme hatched by the car’s registered owner: Mark Costa, 56, of Miami, who is a flight attendant for American Airlines.
For nearly two years, police said, Costa filched coins donated by international passengers to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s charity and a longtime partner of American Airlines.
Costa never delivered the donations to UNICEF, police said; he stashed them in plastic bags and suitcases in the trunk of his 2006 Crown Vic, until it sagged under the weight of 700 pounds in Euro coins and other foreign currency.
The U.S. value of the illicit loot: about $5,000, said Port Authority police.
In interviews with detectives, Costa admitted to the theft, Pentangelo said. Police arrested Costa on Jan. 31, and booked him on felony charges of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
Costa, who could not be reached for comment, was arraigned the following day in Queens Criminal Court and posted $100,000 bail. He’s due back in court on March 24.
Alexis Aran Coello, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said the company holds its employees “to the highest standards of integrity’’ and does not tolerate theft.
She said American Airlines’ customers and employees have raised nearly $11 million during a 20-year partnership with UNICEF, and they will continue to work together.