Lawsuit: Airline Employees Share Personal Info With Feds For Big Payouts | WBEZ
Skip to main content

WBEZ Updates

Lawsuit: Airline Employees Share Personal Info With Feds For Big Payouts

A Chicago attorney claims federal agents stole almost $5,000 from his client's suitcase after the agents allegedly paid off airline employees for flight records, which they scanned for so-called "suspicious" passengers. 

Attorney Brendan Shiller said a United employee shared a flight manifest with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers, who flagged his client, Breland Lee, as suspicious because he had a one-way ticket and previous drug convictions.

The officers didn’t charge Lee with a crime, or even arrest him, but they did take about $5,000 from his suitcase, Shiller said. 

“They had no proof of a crime, of any crime," Shiller said. "They just knew he had cash on him and a criminal background."

Shiller said Lee eventually got his money back, but they’re continuing with the lawsuit to bring attention to the practice of sharing passenger information with the government.

“That information is private and it’s not allowed to be turned over to anybody else, just like banking information, tax information, healthcare information," Shiller said. "They’re covered by federal regulations."

A United spokesperson said they believe the lawsuit has no merit.

The judge recently dismissed most of the counts against the airline.

Shiller said he expects the case to wrap up — either with a small settlement or a full dismissal — within a month.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.