Travel Agent, Sandra M. White, Booked For Nearly Eight Years In Prison For Fraud
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. announced today the sentencing of Sandra M. White, 53, of Coloma, Michigan, for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. White, who was convicted in June after an eight-day jury trial that was held in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo, was sentenced to serve 7 years and 10 months for a long-running scheme that not only caused over $600,000 in loss, but that also caused severe harm to other travel agencies through which she booked airline tickets.
Doing business as "Corporate Travel Consultants/Travel by Design (CTC/TBD)," White defrauded airlines that included United, American, Delta and Lufthansa of hundreds of thousands of dollars in airfares by falsely claiming that CTC clients were entitled to substantially discounted "military fares," by claiming that they possessed discount and/or upgrade certificates, and by manipulating online ticketing programs to sell fares that were no longer available. By consistently obtaining significantly lower fares for CTC’s clients than they could obtain anywhere else, White developed and maintained a large and loyal client base which – unaware that their fares were being obtained by fraud – used CTC exclusively. By maintaining an extremely high volume of sales, White was able to collect booking fees, agent commissions, and bonuses that constituted a large percentage of CTC’s overall income.
CTC functioned independently as an industry-accredited travel agency until 2003, when its license to directly sell air carrier inventories was revoked after airline audits discovered six-figure-fraud. From 2003 on, however, CTC continued its fraudulent practices, with White obtaining sub-contractor positions with accredited travel agencies in Indiana, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, working online from CTC’s location in Berrien County.
By exploiting the access to airline inventory of accredited travel agencies, White was able to continue her fraudulent ticketing as a subcontractor without the airlines realizing who they were dealing with. In each instance, however, airline audits did eventually identify the fraud, and the agencies through whom White had done the ticketing were left with liability for six-figure losses. In some cases, the debts caused by White’s misconduct endangered the survival of the host-agencies. Further, when airline audits would expose what appeared to be fraud, White would manufacture and present fake birth certificates, passports, discount and upgrade certificates, and U.S. military identification cards in attempts to prove that the fares were properly obtained. In other instances, she would use credit accounts of wealthy clients to pay for the costs of other clients’ fares.
In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney commented on the seriousness and pervasiveness of White’s fraud, and on the fact that she had continued to commit fraud even after airlines revoked her license to sell directly.
White was allowed to remain on bond pending assignment by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to a specific facility, and she will be allowed to self-surrender to commence serving her sentence. White was also ordered to pay close to $600,000 in restitution to the host travel-agencies she victimized, and also to several airlines.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank.