BARTONVILLE — United Airlines executives came to town Tuesday to celebrate and thank a trio of ground staff employees at Peoria's airport who helped stop an alleged crime.
The men earlier this month raised concerns about the actions of Ollantay Corujo, 37, of Chicago, who faces federal charges of wire fraud in the alleged attempt to steal meal vouchers from a computer at the Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport.
"This is just a great example of 'if you see something, say something,'" said Lynda Coffman, the president of United Ground Express, the airline subsidiary that employs staff in Peoria.
In the overnight hours of Dec. 2, airport employees Steve Finch, Steve Shultz and Nick Allen-Stewart found Corujo wearing a United uniform and working behind the company counter at the airport, purporting to do tech work, according to a federal affidavit and the men's description of events at a Tuesday news conference.
They flagged the oddity, setting the wheels in motion for his arrest later that day for the alleged theft of more than $6,000 of meal vouchers at the terminal.
But it wasn't just that single, relatively small theft that's at issue, said Jon Roitman, United's senior vice president of airport operations.
In bringing their concerns to the attention United Ground Express general manager Michael Cordova, they "really broke up a pretty deep criminal conspiracy," the Chicago-based executive said.
Corujo had performed similar thefts in Boston, Milwaukee, Harrisburg, Pa., and once previously in Peoria, according to the federal affidavit, totaling more than $555,000. Because such vouchers usually expire within 48 hours, court documents suggest that he'd spend them immediately with a company he operated.
"For a little less than a year, the federal government, the (U.S.) Secret Service, has been pursuing this issue and investigating," Roitman said of the case against Corujo, a former United employee who had been fired. "... It all came to a screeching halt in Peoria, thank goodness."
All that because "these guys saw something out of the ordinary in the middle of the night," said Doug Palmer, the director of operations at the airport.
"This is a really good example of how an airport community works," Roitman said before presenting the men with gift certificates and airplane models as an expression of the company's gratitude.
Corujo is being held on $1 million bond.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.