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Man Flees LAX Leaving Behind $1.9 Million

November 28, 1986|SCOTT HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

Customs agents and Los Angeles police today searched for a man whose attempt to move more than $1.9 million in cash from Los Angeles to Zurich, Switzerland, was foiled by an alert airline ticket agent.

The man slipped out of a Los Angeles International Airport terminal Thursday afternoon as the Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad used small charges to open three suitcases, revealing $1,956,000 in U.S. currency--mostly $20 and $100 bills.

"Any time someone is trying to move that much cash, it usually comes from drug transactions," said Lt. Dan Cooke, police spokesman. "We can only assume that at this point, and so the investigation continues."

In addition to the possibility of narcotics involvement, the suspect violated federal law by failing to report currency transfers of more than $10,000 leaving the country, said U.S. Customs spokesman John Miller.

The traveler was in the process of exchanging a ticket for Istanbul, Turkey, for one to Zurich at about 11 a.m. when his "nervous" behavior aroused suspicion in a Pan Am Airlines ticket agent, according to Officer John Hadley of the police airport substation.

The ticket agent, whose name was not disclosed, had the man's bags X-rayed. "Through the X-ray, you could see a large quantity of money," Hadley said. One bag also contained wires, raising suspicion that it might be booby-trapped with explosives.

Customs agents and the police bomb squad were called to the scene. After moving the bags to a secure area, the bomb squad used low-grade explosives to open the bags, revealing the cash. By then, the man had disappeared.

Neither Customs or police would say whether they knew the suspect's identity, and neither offered descriptions.

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