Georgia Man Arrested in Wire Fraud Scheme That Bilked Airlines by Obtaining Free ‘Non-Rev’ Tickets for Non-Employees
|U.S. Attorney’s Office July 10, 2014|
LOS ANGELES—A Georgia man is scheduled to be arraigned today on federal charges that allege he fraudulently booked airline reservations by pretending to be a flight crew member.
Gilbert Myers Jr., 37, of Atlanta, was taken into custody late yesterday afternoon without incident at a Beverly Hills hotel after agreeing to meet a potential traveler who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Myers was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 6 that accuses him of one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud. The indictment, which was unsealed upon Myers’ arrest, outlines 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 $2,000 for one year of free flights.
The indictment alleges that 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, the indictment alleges. With the fraudulently obtained boarding pass and their real photo identification, the fraudulent traveler went through Transportation Security Administration security screening. If the fraudulent traveler was asked about his employment or how he received the tickets, the fraudulent traveler lied as instructed by Myers, according to the indictment. 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.
The indictment details a small number of flights, but investigators believe that Myers fraudulently booked hundreds of flights on air carriers such as JetBlue Airways and United Airlines, causing the victims to suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
All of the victim airlines fully cooperated in the investigation.
Myers is expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon at 2:00 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
The conspiracy and wire fraud charges alleged in the indictment each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The case against Myers is the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.