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Airline worker, wife accused of stealing luggage diverted after Asiana crash

An aircraft lands behind the wreckage of the Asiana Airlines plane at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, July
An aircraft lands behind the wreckage of the Asiana Airlines plane at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, July

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A United Airlines customer services representative and his wife have been arrested in the theft of unclaimed luggage from a flight that had been diverted after the July 6 fatal crash of an Asiana Airlines plane, a county prosecutor said on Monday.

Sean Sharif Crudup, 44, was charged with grand theft and burglary, said Karen Guidotti, chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County. His wife, Raychas Elizabeth Thomas, 32, will be arraigned in August, Guidotti said.

Guidotti said video surveillance showed Crudup taking the bags and handing them to his wife. She said Thomas later unpacked the luggage and returned much of the clothing to a Nordstrom department store, pocketing about $5,000 cash.

Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson declined to comment on the incident, but he confirmed that the chain allows stores to make return decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The luggage belonged to a couple whose flight had been scheduled to arrive at San Francisco International Airport on the day of the Asiana Airlines crash. Their flight was diverted to another airport, but their suitcases were sent on to San Francisco.

The couple discovered their luggage was missing when they went to San Francisco to retrieve it, Guidotti said.

Crudup and his wife were arrested on Thursday, authorities said. He was charged on Friday and released on $75,000 bail. Thomas was out of custody on $50,000 bail and will be arraigned in August.

United spokesman Christen David said the airline was assisting investigators in the case. "We hold our employees to the highest standard and have zero tolerance for any theft," he said.

Three Chinese teenagers died and dozens of passengers were injured when the Asiana Boeing 777 hit a seawall in front of the runway, lost its tail and caught fire after skidding to a halt.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)

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