Sam Brinton, a senior Energy Department (DOE) official, was charged with stealing a stranger's luggage in the Minneapolis airport in September, shortly before suspiciously taking a leave of absence.
Brinton — who serves as the DOE's deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition — was said to have taken a Vera Bradley suitcase worth $2,325 from the luggage carousel at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport (MSP) on Sept. 16. Brinton had traveled from Washington, D.C., to MSP that day.
After the suitcase's owner reported it to police, officers reviewed video surveillance of the baggage claim and identified Brinton taking the luggage before disposing of its tag identifying the true owner. Law enforcement then learned Brinton used the luggage during at least two other trips to Washington, D.C.
"If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have any clothes for another individual," Brinton told the officer at the time. "That was my clothes when I opened the bag."
Two hours after the initial phone call, Brinton called the officer back and confessed to not being "completely honest." But Brinton claimed it was a mistake and used the excuse of being tired for taking the wrong bag.
"DEFENDANT said when they opened the bag at the hotel, they realized it was not theirs," the court filings stated. "DEFENDANT got nervous people would think they stole the bag and did not know what to do. DEFENDANT stated they left the clothes from the bag inside the drawers in the hotel room."
Brinton was eventually charged with felony theft of a movable property without consent, a charge that could come with a five-year sentence, $10,000 fine or both.