Ex-Airline Employee Pleads Guilty to Charge for Role in Scheme Where Fake Airline IDs Were Manufactured to Obtain Free Flights
LOS ANGELES – A former Mesa Airlines employee pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge that he schemed to manufacture counterfeit Mesa employee identification badges that were used to obtain free flights for himself and others on another airline.
Hubbard Bell, 32, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty via videoconference to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to his plea agreement, Bell worked at Mesa Airlines, a Phoenix-based regional airline, from June 2015 until October 2015. While a Mesa employee, Bell was provided access to free tickets as a job benefit. Mesa employees and their designated beneficiaries were permitted to use this benefit only while employed by Mesa Airlines.
Bell admitted that, from February 2016 to November 2017, after Mesa terminated his employment, he conspired with others to sell the stolen and unauthorized information of Mesa employees, including their names, dates of hire, and employee identification numbers that were needed to book free flights on Spirit Airlines through Spirit’s web portal for themselves and others.
For example, on June 2, 2016, Bell received via email confidential Mesa employee information for dozens of Mesa Airlines workers based in Dallas and Houston.
For himself, Bell fraudulently obtained 34 free airline tickets, which allowed him to fly interstate, including into and out of Los Angeles International Airport, despite the fact Mesa Airlines no longer employed him. Bell also admitted he and his co-conspirators manufactured and sold fraudulent Mesa employee identification cards for use by the fraudulent travelers.
United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald scheduled a December 7 sentencing hearing, at which time Bell will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The case’s other defendants – including Kamille Jemison, 28, a former Houston resident who subsequently relocated to the Beverly Grove district of Los Angeles, and Alphonso Lloyd, 27, of Houston – are expected to go to trial in this matter in the spring of 2021.
The case was investigated by the FBI, who received substantial assistance from the Federal Air Marshal Service and the Transportation Security Administration.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section and Poonam G. Kumar of the Major Frauds Section.