News and Press Releases

black market travel agents

Chicago, los angeles men sentenced in multi-million dollar fraud

conspirators used stolen identities, credit cards
to purchase airline tickets

May 30, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Chicago, Ill., man and a Los Angeles, Calif., man have been sentenced in federal court for their roles 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.

Maurice Beecham, 39, of Chicago, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, to five years in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine. In a separate but related case, Raun Lauderdale, Jr., 28, of Los Angeles, was sentenced today to two years and six months in federal prison without parole. Beecham and Lauderdale participated in the black market travel conspiracies by providing stolen credit card and identity information to their co-conspirators.

They are 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.

Beecham was the principal source of stolen credit card and identity information for the Chicago-area black market travel agents. Beecham, who obtained the stolen identity information from a source or sources in Hanoi, Vietnam, sold more than 2,000 sets of stolen credit/debit card information to several co-defendants Tyrone Ross, 34, Benjamin Everett, 32, and Edwon Simmons, 36, all of Chicago, Ill., and Marcus Grisby, 36, of Hoffman Estates, Ill. These co-defendants worked together as black market travel agents and maintained a full-time agency capable of selling dozens of airline tickets every day to customers throughout the United States. They used stolen identity information, including stolen credit/debit cards from thousands of victims in dozens of states, to purchase airline reservations for thousands of customers totaling more than $1 million. They also flew themselves on the fraudulently booked airline tickets, including a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2009. Simmons used his connections with professional athletes (Simmons’ brother plays for the Philadelphia Eagles and Simmons himself played minor league baseball) to book tickets for players and coaches on several NFL and college teams, as well as NBA players from Chicago, Dallas and Boston.

Ross, Everett and Grisby were each sentenced to seven years in federal prison without parole. Edwon Simmons was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine. In addition to the conspiracy, Ross, Everett, Grisby, and Simmons each pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. Ross also pleaded guilty to credit card fraud and Simmons also pleaded guilty to making false statements.

Lauderdale was the principal source of stolen credit card and identity information for the Los Angeles-area black market travel agents. Lauderdale stole the information from his employer, the Extended Stay America in Long Beach, Calif.

The information stolen by Lauderdale was also used by co-defendant Demetria Harrison, 41, of Atlanta, Ga. Harrison was a major black market ticket agent in the Atlanta conspiracy, working full time, virtually every day, using stolen credit card and identity information to book airline tickets for thousands of customers from 2001 to 2010. She was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to multiple counts. Before moving to Atlanta in 2006, Harrison lived in Kansas City, where investigators believe she first started making fraudulent bookings of airline tickets as long ago as 2001.

These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Cowles. They were 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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