A veteran American Airlines flight attendant has been arrested in Argentina on suspicion of trying to smuggle two gold bars, thousands of dollars worth of expensive jewelry and cash, as well as other expensive goods out of Argentina on a flight to Miami which she was the head purser of.
The 57-year-old female flight attendant has been identified by local Argentine media as Laura Diana Schulz who is originally from Bariloche. Schulz’s arrest is making headlines in Argentina because she was a former Reina de la Nieve (Snow Queen) in her home town’s famous winter festival.
Officers from Argentina’s Policía de Seguridad Aeroportuaria (airport police) stopped Schulz during a routine check as she was going to board American Airlines flight AA900 from Buenos Aires to Miami.
Suspicion arose after officers noticed something strange in Schulz’s luggage during routine x-ray monitoring. When they asked her what was in her bag, she allegedly told the officers that she was carrying her own savings that she was going to place in a friend’s safe in Miami.
Officers obtained a court order to search Schulz’s luggage and found thousands of dollars worth of expensive luxury goods including: 2,204 grams of gold, Rolex watches and other expensive jewelry. Along with thousands of Pesos, police also found US$ 11,413.33 in Schulz’s belongings.
The flight attendant, who stands accused of smuggling and money laundering, allegedly told police that the cash was money that passengers had donated onboard AA flights as part of its partnership with the United Nations children’s charity Unicef.
Schulz was arrested around three weeks ago but details have only now emerged after police released information about the case publicly for the first time.
Local media claim the total haul could be worth in excess of US$ 100,000.
Police say the goods were carefully hidden in various compartments in Schulz’s luggage. Some pieces of jewelry were allegedly painted black to conceal the true material so far to make it seem much cheaper than it actually was.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for American Airlines told us: “We are aware of this matter and are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation.”
The airline said it was unable to comment further as the matter was being dealt with by police.
Flight attendants are occasionally targeted by international smuggling gangs because their security access and insider knowledge allow them to go undetected in the vast majority of the time they are used to smuggle illicit goods across borders.
They do, however, sometimes get caught. Last October, a Malaysian flight attendant was jailed for nine years after trying to smuggle AUD$3 million into Australia. Another Malaysian flight attendant was jailed in the UK for 12 months after he was caught trying to smuggle £150,000 out of Britain.
And in 1997, an Emirates flight attendant was caught when he attempted to smuggle bags stuffed with heroin into the UK. Of course, there have been lots of other attempts and gold is frequently the material flight attendants are asked to smuggle.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.