In a remarkable display of determination and resourcefulness, a Spirit Airlines passenger managed to locate her stolen luggage after it vanished upon her arrival at a Florida airport. Using one of her stolen items, Paola Garcia turned the tables on the thief, tracking down her belongings in a story that underscores the importance of personal responsibility and vigilance.

Paola Garcia had just returned home to the Sunshine State and was eagerly waiting for her small pink hardshell luggage at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport carousel. The suitcase contained several valuable Apple products, including her MacBook and two Apple Watches. To her dismay, her luggage never appeared. Garcia, who always carried on her luggage without issue, had been forced by Spirit Airlines employees to check her bag before departing from New York.

As other passengers collected their bags, Garcia’s panic grew. “In my mind, I’m thinking I need my computer because I go to the university. I need my computer no matter what,” she told Local 10. After waiting “at least two hours,” she gave up hope of seeing her luggage on the conveyor belt.

Spirit Airlines employees assured Garcia that her luggage would be sent to her house. But the next day, Garcia received a ping from one of her Apple Watches. Surprisingly, the signal was not coming from the airport but from a home 15 minutes away in Fort Lauderdale.

The address belonged to Junior Bazile, an employee at Paradies Shops, a retail store at the airport, according to an arrest affidavit. Driven by determination, Garcia went to the home, found her suitcase, and immediately called 911. When police arrived, they initially questioned Garcia’s presence at the location. “The police told me, ‘What are you doing here? This is so dangerous for you to be here,’” she explained.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office discovered that Bazile, 29, was working the day Garcia’s belongings went missing. Unfortunately, by the time the police arrived, the alleged thief had already disposed of her items. An investigation revealed pictures of Bazile rummaging through Garcia’s suitcase in the back of the store where he worked. Bazile was arrested and charged with grand theft, a felony offense in Florida if the stolen goods are worth over $750.

If found guilty, Bazile could face five to 30 years in prison and fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Garcia expressed concern that Bazile might be part of a larger network of thieves at the airport. “Personally, I don’t think it’s one person working in the airport. I think it’s a group,” she said. “One person can’t just do that, take bags.”

Spirit Airlines released a statement following the confirmation of the theft, saying they had reimbursed Garcia as a “courtesy.” The airline stated, “We issued a reimbursement check to the guest as a courtesy, even though we are not currently aware of any evidence that any Spirit employee was involved. We take any allegation of this nature seriously, and we are investigating.”

This incident is not an isolated case of theft at Florida airports. In June 2023, surveillance footage captured two TSA officers allegedly stealing at least $600 in cash and other items from passengers’ luggage at Miami International Airport. The thefts occurred while passengers were distracted by the screening process, highlighting a broader issue of security and trust in airport operations.

Garcia’s experience serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of personal vigilance and the need for robust security measures to protect travelers’ belongings. As the investigation continues, travelers are urged to stay alert and safeguard their possessions in an increasingly unpredictable travel landscape.