A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Dist. of Massachusetts details the history of Pedro Igor Duarte, 28, of Marlborough (often spelled Marlboro), Mass., and how he executed his scheme to defraud various airlines, including (then) Continental Airlines, American Airlines, and Air Tran Airways (now Southwest Airlines).

Beginning October 2007 and continuing through April 2009, Duarte purchased airline tickets and flew on various airlines … for the purpose of submitting, and obtaining payment on, lost baggage claims, when in fact he had not lost any baggage on those flights.

baggage claim

From Baggage Claim to fake baggage claims totaling over $28,000

Duarte would purchase an airline ticket and prior to the flight would check his baggage with the airline. Upon arrival at his destination airport, Duarte would pick up his checked baggage, but then would submit a lost baggage claim form to the airline, falsely stating that the airline had lost his baggage. Duarte would alter slightly the spelling of his name on the baggage claim form so that the airline would not know that the same person was filing numerous lost baggage claims within a short time period. Duarte would also provide a Massachusetts address or, alternatively, provide an address outside of Massachusetts, but would later contact the airline and change his address to a Massachusetts location. In support of his lost baggage claim, Duarte would provide the airline with purchase receipts purporting to document the value of his lost baggage. Upon receipt of the necessary information from Duarte, the airline would mail him a check to compensate for the value of his purportedly lost baggage. [travelblawg’s emphasis]

Duarte joins approximately 97% of defendants in federal criminal court by pleading guilty (to three counts of mail fraud) and accepting responsibility (and getting the sentencing benefits thereof) instead of standing trial. He faces a statutory maximum term of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release (federal system’s name for probation), and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea agreement, Duarte will repay the airlines $28,210 in restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for December 6, 2013.

Lost, delayed, and damaged baggage should be taken seriously by all airlines, and it’s no wonder we see carriers continuing to make technology and method advancements to reduce such problems and claims. Then there are people taking advantage of the claim system to make a fraudulent profit. Airline security personnel and experts are on the lookout for such fraud, and this case is an example of how such fraudulent claims can land you in the big leagues — federal criminal court.

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