A man who pretended to be a flight crew member in order to get free or low-cost flights in and out of Los Angeles County airports, which he would then sell to “clients” who would pay up to $2,000 for a year of flying, pleaded guilty today to a federal wire fraud offense.
Gilbert Myers Jr., 38, of Atlanta, Georgia, entered his plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson scheduled an April 30 sentencing hearing.
Myers admitted orchestrating a conspiracy to defraud air carriers in which travelers would illegally board planes while pretending to be employees of other airlines. In exchange for arranging their travel as “non-rev” employee travelers, Myers typically charged about $2,000 for one year of unlimited free flights, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Myers fraudulently booked hundreds of flights on such carriers as AirTran Airways, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines, prosecutors said.
The travelers utilized Myers’ services 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 its representative the name of a traveler, the airline he supposedly worked for, a bogus employee identification number, and a date of hire.
Myers typically said he worked on a flight crew for another airline, according to court documents.
The defendant advised his “customers” to avoid detection by dressing appropriately and told them how to respond to questions about their bogus employment at another airline.
With the fraudulently obtained boarding pass and their real photo identification, the phony travelers went through Transportation Security Administration security screening and boarded planes listed as employees of other airlines.
All of the travelers were subject to full security screenings by the TSA, officials said.
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,” according to court papers.
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 about $91,660, prosecutors said.