LaGuardia TSA officers return lost diamond ring after connecting investigative dots

Friday, March 22, 2024
TSA Officers Sherelly Johnson, Carole McGonigle (LGA photo)

A woman approached a TSA checkpoint at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) crying. She just flew into LGA and stopped to use the restroom before leaving the airport. Unfortunately, she lost her new diamond engagement ring.

She removed her ring to wash her hands and left it on a restroom counter.

The traveler didn’t realize her mistake until she and her fiancé exited the airport’s secure area. She hustled to the airline counter for a gate pass to return to the restroom, but the airline declined to give her one. So, there she was at the checkpoint, crying in panic as she explained her situation.

TSA Officer Sherelly Johnson and Supervisory Officer Carole McGonigle empathized with the woman and volunteered to join the search. After checking the bathroom on the secure side, they turned to possible eyewitnesses.

“We started to ask some women who were in the restroom line if they had seen a ring,” recalled McGonigle, who has worked at LGA for 17 1/2 years. One woman told McGonigle and Johnson that another passenger asked her if she left a ring on the counter, but she said she had not.

The woman in line described the passenger who asked about the ring and agreed to help the officers identify her.

“We approached the woman and asked if she found a ring in the restroom,” McGonigle said. “The woman said she did, pulled it out of her wallet and handed it to me.”

TSA Officers Sherelly Johnson, Carole McGonigle (LGA photo)
TSA Officers Sherelly Johnson, Carole McGonigle (LGA photo)

The band of the ring was circled in diamonds with a large one in the center.

“I certainly understood why she was crying,” McGonigle said. “I hope to have a ring like that someday.”

When McGonigle and Johnson returned to the checkpoint, they asked the teary-eyed woman if she had a photo of her lost ring to confirm ownership. She was able to pull up a photo of the ring on her Facebook page. Quickly her tears of dread turned to tears of joy as McGonigle handed the ring to the woman.

“The woman was ecstatic,” said Johnson, who has worked at LGA for the last 5 1/2 years. “She was just so happy. It felt great that we could reunite her with the ring.”

“She got lucky this time,” McGonigle said. “I suggested she not remove her ring again unless she did so at the sink at her home. And just in case, I let her know that she did not ever need to remove it at a security checkpoint.”

In an email to the airport, the passenger wrote that the TSA officers “went above and beyond to find my ring and track down the person who took it. They understood how sad and emotional I was, and they didn’t give up. These are the type of people you should hire, people who are understanding, caring, and don’t give up making sure customers are happy. Thank you, Officer Sherelly Johnson and Supervisor McGonigle, from the bottom of my heart.” 

By Lisa Farbstein, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs