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Tourists’ Passports Found at Store

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Japanese tour group avoided an international traveling nightmare when a missing satchel containing 158 passports and airline tickets turned up at a North Hollywood drugstore, police said Monday.

A duffel bag containing the passports and tickets of all members of the tour was reported missing Thursday after the group visited Farmers Market in the Fairfax area, police said. The Japanese Consulate was notified and officials began the laborious task of arranging for the undocumented tourists--who had moved on from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon--to get home.

But on Sunday, the bag showed up at the Thrifty Drug Store in the 6600 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

How the bag got from Farmers Market to the drugstore remained unknown. But Sgt. John Stilo said someone carrying the bag entered the drugstore Saturday and was told by a cashier that the bag must be checked at the register until the person was done shopping.

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But the shopper never reclaimed the bag and on Sunday morning the store manager called police.

Sgt. Chris Vasquez said the person who left the bag with the cashier may have been afraid to reclaim it and simply abandoned it.

Vasquez said North Hollywood Division officers, unaware that the tickets and passports had been reported missing at the Wilshire Division station, tracked down the tour group by calling Nippon Airlines, which had issued the travel tickets. The bag was then turned over to a representative of STS Tours Inc., who returned the tickets and passports to their owners.

“They had been very concerned because of the passports,” Vasquez said.

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A spokeswoman for STS declined comment other than to say she was “not sure” if the travel documents had been misplaced at Farmers Market by a tour member or stolen. “How they ended up at a North Hollywood drugstore is still a mystery,” Vasquez said.

The tour group was scheduled to leave for Japan on Wednesday after making a stop in Mexico. The STS spokeswoman said there would be no disruption in the itinerary.


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