A travel agent has been brought crashing back to earth after allegedly scamming Delta Air Lines for a whopping 42 million frequent flyer points worth more than $US1.75 million.
The long arm of the law caught up with jet-setting Gennady Podolsky, a dual American and Ukrainian citizen who was a managing partner in Chicago-based travel agency Vega International Travel Services and charged him with wire fraud.
Authorities allege Podolsky, 43, of Kiev, Ukraine, used Delta’s SkyBonus program to accrue the SkyMiles points by linking the travel agency customers to a fertility center owned and operated by a family member of Vega’s president.
Delta’s SkyBonus program allows a company to accrue points whenever its employees travel on Delta.
But an enrolled business can accrue SkyBonus points under the terms of the program only if the traveling passenger is an actual employee of that business.
The Indictment from the US Attorney’s office in Northern Georgia alleges that between March 2014 and April 2015, Podolsky used an account registered in the name of the fertility center to fraudulently accrue and redeem more than 42 million SkyBonus points.
Vega catered for clients of Russian and eastern European descent who were living abroad and when Podolsky booked customers on Delta, the indictment says, he linked the SkyBonus account of the fertility center with their tickets.
Podolsky then caused the SkyBonus points that had been fraudulently accrued to be redeemed “by requesting, receiving, and utilizing reward certificates for free air travel and other valuable benefits”.
“Podolsky used his knowledge of the travel industry to take advantage of his travel agency clients,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Through his access, he allegedly took advantage of Delta Airlines corporate frequent flyer program, illegally reaping millions of SkyBonus points worth more than $1.75 million dollars.”
The FBI is investigating the case and Podolsky was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 11 ahead of his trial on 12 counts of wire fraud.
“The fraudulent accumulation of frequent flyer miles in the travel industry may seem like a victimless crime, however, large corporations stand to lose significant profits”, said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta.
“The FBI will do everything in its power to protect companies and to stop anyone who participates in this corrupt behavior.”