News and Press Releases

Black market travel agents

Florida man sentenced for multi-million dollar fraud

conspirators used stolen identities, credit cards
to purchase airline tickets

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Hialeah, Fla., man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy among black market travel agents who used the stolen identities of thousands of victims as part of a multi-million dollar fraud scheme to purchase airline tickets for their customers.

Sean Fleming, also known as “Pucci,” 30, of Hialeah, Fla., was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan to 22 months in federal prison without parole.

Fleming is among 38 defendants from across the United States who were charged in a series of six separate, but related, indictments. These separate criminal conspiracies resulted in an estimated total loss of more than $20 million to numerous domestic airline companies, financial institutions, other merchants and individual credit and debit cardholders. A total of 33 defendants have pleaded guilty and one defendant was convicted at trial.

Fleming, who pleaded guilty on Sept. 24, 2010, admitted that he acted as a black market travel agent. He booked hundreds of fraudulent airline reservations and compromised more than 1,000 credit/debit cards, causing more than $1 million in losses to his victims. Fleming admitted that he used stolen credit/debit card information to purchase airline reservations for his customers.

Fleming purchased the stolen credit/debit card information of the identity theft victims at a nominal cost, then used the stolen credit/debit card information to purchase the airline tickets. Fleming then sold the airline reservations to his customers and charged far less than the value of legitimately purchased reservations. Fleming generally purchased reservations close to the time of departure so that the airlines, credit card companies, or identity theft victims would be less likely to detect the fraudulent purchases and have the tickets canceled. As a result, the passengers could often complete their trips before the fraud was detected.

Fleming obtained stolen credit/debit card information from a variety of sources, including co-defendants and a source in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To conceal his communication with those sources, Fleming used the identity of an individual named David Bravo, without Bravo’s consent, and used public wireless Internet sources.

Fleming used stolen credit/debit card numbers for cardholders from dozens of states,
including Missouri, Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Fleming used a credit card verification service to determine whether the stolen credit/debit card information was valid and could be used to purchase airline tickets. Fleming obtained a merchant identification number assigned to a company in White Plains, N.Y., in order to access the credit card verification service.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Cowles. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Overland Park, Kan., Police Department, and the Kansas City Secret Service Task Force, and with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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