United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Former Bellevue Travel Agent Sentenced for Stealing Money and Miles from Clients
Over Six Years She Pocketed More than $180,000 in Cash and $132,000 in Miles
A former Bellevue travel agent who used her access to clients’ credit card numbers and mileage plan awards to steal cash, travel and tickets worth more than $300,000 was sentenced today by U. S. District Judge James L. Robart to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. KAREN YEAKEL, 64, was ordered to pay $339,242 to those she defrauded and to her employer who incurred thousands of dollars investigating the embezzlement.
According to records filed in the case, between 2005 and 2011, YEAKEL used her close relationship with some of her clients to steal their money and their miles. In some instances, YEAKEL would use their credit card accounts to charge airplane tickets to Hawaii or Mexico and then would resell the tickets as “travel vouchers” at a discount to other clients, pocketing the cash. She put more than $180,000 in fraudulent charges on the clients’ credit cards. The other prong of the scheme involved using clients’ miles to book her own travel or travel for her family members. YEAKEL booked more than 152 flights for family members using other people’s frequent flyer miles. When clients wanted to use their miles, YEAKEL claimed no mileage seats were available, when in fact she had simply drained the miles from the accounts. The value of the miles is estimated at more than $132,000.
YEAKEL pleaded guilty January 28, 2013.
Writing to the court prosecutors described how YEAKEL betrayed clients, many of whom were close friends, with her scheme. “Year after year, month after month, day after day, defendant Yeakel misused credit card and airline mile accounts her clients had entrusted to her. During this lengthy period, defendant Yeakel led her clients to believe that she was acting in their best interests, when in fact, she was embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from them to support her own lifestyle….. here is simply no excuse for an educated defendant, entrusted with private financial information by her clients, to engage in a multi-year fraud which caused significant emotional pain and significant losses,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The case was investigated by the Bellevue Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Arnold.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Thomas Bates at (206) 553-7970 or Thomas.Bates@usdoj.gov.