A man in Missouri has pleaded guilty to a scam where he exploited glitches in American Airlines’ ticketing and gift card systems. He used the opportunity to cheat the airline out of $160,000 and his friends and associates out of $20,000.
According to prosecutors, William Schwarze, a resident of the St. Louis area, told people that he was affiliated with a travel agency. He said he was planning to open his own travel business. Meanwhile, he claimed online that he was a travel agent who had “elite airline and hotel statuses,” and who logged roughly 200,000 flight miles a year. In his plea records, he was quoted as saying, “My background allows me to optimize airline and hotel customer experience programs to build exceptional travel value for you.”
However all of that was a lie. In real life, Schwarze was taking advantage of a glitch in American’s computer systems. According to court records, from January 2016 through October 2018, he used his personal credit cards to buy gift cards online. He’d then use the gift cards to buy airline tickets for family, friends and associates.
Either before or after the flights, Schwarze applied for refunds and the money would be refunded to his credit card. Of course, the money should have been refunded as gift cards, but again, the system had a glitch in it. American Airlines has since fixed said glitch ;-). Anyway, in 2018 alone, be bought almost 70 gift cards, usually in the range of $50 to $150 each.
And if scamming American wasn’t bad enough, he also sold about $20,000 worth of airline tickets to his friends, family, and other people he knew. The problem with that was he didn’t tell them he got refunds on the purchase prices. Ka-ching!
As part of his plea agreement, Schwarz pleaded guilty and will avoid jail and probably just get probation when he’s sentenced later this year. He’ll also have to pay back the $180,000 to all involved parties.
It just goes to show you – crime doesn’t pay.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary