Three Airline Employees Based at PHL International Airport Indicted for Reservation Skimming Fraud Scheme
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Taylor Thompson, 27; Tiana Fairfax, 29, both of Philadelphia, PA, and Theodore Robinson, 29, of Upper Darby, PA, were arrested and charged by Indictment with seven counts of wire fraud in connection with their scheme to defraud their employer, a national airline carrier, out of ticket fare revenue by recruiting customers to book inexpensive flights which they didn’t intend to use, upgrading those customers to more expensive flights which the customers actually wanted by using supervisors’ computer access codes, and then charging the customers a ‘commission’ and pocketing that money rather than charging the customer the full price of the upgraded flight.
The Indictment alleges that in 2017 and 2018, defendant Thompson was an employee in a supervisory role with a major U.S. airline headquartered in Florida, and defendants Fairfax and Robinson worked as customer service agents with the same airline. In those jobs, the defendants had access to the airline’s computerized reservation system and were able to book flight reservations; supervisors like Thompson had the ability to use a special code at their discretion to make changes in the reservation system without charging customers the additional costs associated with modified reservations. In general, if a passenger changed their itinerary, airline policy required that the passenger pay the full price of the modified itinerary, which was often more expensive than the itinerary that the passenger originally booked. Although supervisors had the ability to modify a reservation without assessing those charges, under Airline policy, those charges were only to be waived under extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the passenger's family.
In March 2018, Thompson allegedly approached another employee and co-schemer about participating in a scheme to skim money from airline fares, and asked that employee for access to their Cash App account in order to receive payments directly from customers. Thompson made money from the scheme by charging customers for whom she booked and modified a flight reservation more for the flight than the price of the original itinerary (that is, the amount that was paid to the airline), but less than the true cost of the new, modified itinerary. The defendant retained the additional amount paid to her by the customer as a commission for her services. Defendants Fairfax and Robinson allegedly joined the scheme by modifying flight reservations for customers without charging them the difference in cost by utilizing Thompson’s supervisory airline credentials. In 2018, when Thompson was terminated by the airline, a second co-schemer was approached to join the scheme in order to utilize their supervisory credentials in order to modify flight reservations.
According to the Indictment, between December 2017 and August 2018, all three defendants along with the two co-schemers modified more than 1,700 flight reservations without compensating the airline for the increased cost of those modified reservations, for a total loss to the airline of more than $283,000.
“As alleged, these defendants used access and privileges granted by virtue of their employment to cheat the airline reservation system and skim money off the top for themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute fraud schemes wherever they occur.”
“Supplementing your paycheck by scamming your employer is a criminally bad career move,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Fraud is never the ticket to lasting financial gain, as these defendants have now discovered. Instead, it’s landed them in court to answer for their alleged actions. The FBI stands ready to investigate financial crimes wherever they may occur.”
The case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Rice.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.