Georgia Man Sentenced to Prison 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 was sentenced today to six months in federal prison, as well as six months of home detention.
Gilbert Myers Jr., 38, of Atlanta, was sentenced this afternoon in Los Angeles by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Pregerson ordered Myers to pay $91,660 in restitution to the victim airlines.
Myers pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, admitting that he orchestrated a scheme to defraud air carriers by having travelers 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, 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 responding to questions about their employment at another airline. With the fraudulently obtained boarding pass and their real photo identification, the fraudulent traveler 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.”
The fair market value of the fraudulently obtained plane tickets was more than $277,000, and attorneys in the case agreed that the applicable amount of restitution is approximately $91,660.
All of the victim airlines fully cooperated in the investigation.
Myers was arrested in July 2014 without incident at a Beverly Hills hotel after agreeing to meet a potential traveler who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
The case against Myers is the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.