News and Press Releases

Black market travel agents

Former kC woman sentenced in multi-million dollar fraud

conspirators used stolen identities, credit cards
to purchase airline tickets

March 30, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. B David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Kansas City, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for her 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.

Demetria Harrison, 41, of Atlanta, Ga., was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. to 80 months in federal prison without parole.

Harrison 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.

Harrison, who was charged in three of the federal indictments, pleaded guilty on March 31, 2011, to multiple counts of conspiracy, credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. 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.

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 obtained stolen credit card information from sources involved in the Los Angeles and Chicago conspiracies. For sentencing purposes, the loss amount attributable to Harrison is from $200,000 to $400,000.

Black market travel agents profited from the scheme by purchasing the stolen credit/debit card information of the identity theft victims at a nominal cost, then using the stolen information to purchase the reservations online at airline Web sites. Black market travel agents then sold the confirmation codes of the airline reservations to their customers.

Black market travel agents generally purchased reservations close to the time of departure, in order to increase the likelihood that the airlines, credit card or debit card companies, or identity theft victims would not detect the fraudulent purchases and have the reservations canceled. As a result, their passengers could often complete their trips before the stolen credit or debit card used to pay for the flight was detected as being compromised.

These cases are being 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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