Managing partner of Chicago travel agency pleads guilty to computer password trafficking
ATLANTA - Gennady Podolsky, a dual Ukrainian and American citizen, and managing partner of Vega International Travel Services, Inc., has pleaded guilty to trafficking in computer passwords.
“Companies or individuals who use travel agents trust them to work in their best interests,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Podolsky violated that trust when he trafficked in passwords associated with Delta Air Lines SkyBonus accounts without authorization, fraudulently accruing Delta SkyBonus points for the purchase of eCert tickets. Corrupt individuals who engage in fraudulent activity will be caught and prosecuted.”
“There are victims when someone fraudulently accumulates frequent flyer miles in the travel industry. Large corporations, like Delta Air Lines, lose significant profits,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This case is an example of how the FBI will do everything in its power to protect companies and arrest anyone who conducts such corrupt behavior.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: Vega International Travel Services, Inc. (“Vega Travel”) was a small, full service travel agency located in Chicago, Illinois. Vega Travel's services included booking air travel for its clients, many of whom were living abroad. Podolsky was Vega Travel’s managing partner and lead travel agent.
Delta Air Lines is a major United States airline headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Delta utilizes computer servers for electronic ticket management and email messaging. Delta also operates a frequent-flyer program for individuals called SkyMiles, and a similar program for businesses called SkyBonus, that allows individuals and businesses to earn points for free travel and other valuable perks.
Enrolled businesses can earn points under the SkyBonus program at the same time traveling passengers earn points under the SkyMiles program. Enrolled businesses receive a unique user ID and password, and can redeem accrued Sky Bonus points for flight reward certificates, ticket upgrades, and other benefits. The reward certificates for free air travel are requested through the SkyBonus website. Delta issues the certificates, known as “Delta eCerts,” via email to the recipient's email address. To redeem an eCert for free travel, the reward recipient enters an eCert number during the booking process and selects an eligible flight.
Podolsky created a bogus account under the name of "RGI International" in order to fraudulently accrue SkyBonus points. Podolsky also caused others to use aliases in their communications with Delta. Podolsky further transferred the password for RGI International’s bogus SkyBonus account to a Vega International Travel Service, Inc. employee, in order for the employee to unlawfully access Delta's SkyBonus computer system and book Vega's customers for air travel on Delta.
In so doing, Podolsky caused the Sky Bonus account number for "RGI International" to be associated with those customers' tickets, even though those customers were not employees of any entity called RGI International. By unlawfully transferring the password to RGI International's bogus account, Podolsy ensured the account fraudulently accrued Delta SkyBonus points for the purchase of eCert tickets.
Sentencing for Gennady Podolsky, 44, of Chicago, Illinois is scheduled for January 27, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones. As part of the plea agreement, Podolsky has agreed to pay $1,000,000 as restitution to Delta Air Lines prior to sentencing and has further agreed not to engage in any business with Delta Air Lines or any company associated with Delta Air Lines at any time in the future.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bernita Malloy, John S. Ghose and Glenn D. Baker are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.