Georgia Man Pleads Guilty in Wire Fraud Scheme That Bilked Airlines by Obtaining Free ‘Non-Rev’ Tickets for Non-Employees
LOS ANGELES—A Georgia man who fraudulently booked airline reservations by pretending to be a flight crew member pleaded guilty today to a federal wire fraud offense.
Gilbert Myers Jr., 38, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty this afternoon to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
Myers admitted orchestrating a conspiracy to defraud air carriers in which travelers would illegally board aircrafts while pretending to be employees of other airlines. In exchange for arranging their travel as “non-rev” employee travelers, Myers typically charged approximately $2,000 for one year of unlimited free flights.
Myers fraudulently booked hundreds of flights on victim airlines that include AirTran Airways, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines.
The fraudulent travelers utilized Myers’ services to fly in and out of Los Angeles County airports by pretending to be in-flight crew members employed by other airlines. To obtain boarding passes and stand-by tickets (for which airline employees pay little or nothing, hence non-revenue), Myers called the victim airline’s reservation call center and gave the victim airline’s representative the name of a traveler, the airline he supposedly worked for, a bogus employee identification number, and a date of hire. Myers typically lied to the victim airline and said he worked on a flight crew for another airline, according to court documents.
Myers advised the fraudulent travelers to avoid detection by dressing appropriately and how to respond to questions about their employment at another airline. With the fraudulently obtained boarding pass and their real photo identification, the fraudulent travelers went through Transportation Security Administration security screening. The fraudulent travelers boarded planes listed as employees of other airlines. All of the travelers were subject to full security screenings by the Transportation Security Administration.
In the plea agreement, Myers admitted to several specific, fraudulent booking calls. As part of the conspiracy, Myers acknowledges that he “fraudulently booked these and hundreds of other flights with victim airlines.”
Myers pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 30.
In his plea agreement, Myers agrees that Judge Pregerson may order him to pay restitution to the victims. The fair market value of the fraudulently obtained plane tickets was more than $277,000, and attorneys in the case agree that the applicable amount of restitution is approximately $91,660.
All of the victim airlines fully cooperated in the investigation.
The case against Myers is the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.