It’s an all too common scene for airlines. Traveler is inconvenienced while traveling by the actions of the airline for some reason or another, so that traveler is offered a travel voucher, usually ranging from $200 to $1,000, coupled with a sincere apology, to best put that traveler at ease and with the hopes that he or she will return regardless of their follies.

Delta Airlines uses such a travel voucher system and even takes the process online.  Customers may go online to access their travel vouchers using their assigned travel voucher number and their last name to make changes and/or assign their travel voucher to a third-party.

Delta ticket counter

Delta Counter Photo Credit: dolanh via Compfight cc

Yes, Delta’s travel vouchers are assignable. All you need is the voucher number and its corresponding customer’s last name.  And according to a Criminal Complaint filed against a Delta employee and her co-defendant filed July 11, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit), that was just the information used to access previously (and legitimately) issued travel vouchers and assign them to a friend (co-defendant) who would sell them on the “black market“.

According to the affidavit of the Complaint, made by a Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) Special Agent, the defendants intentionally conspired together to embezzle money, through this scheme, from one defendant’s employer, Delta Airlines, in violation of federal wire fraud and access device fraud laws.

The affidavit states the allegations stemmed from an internal investigation by Delta’s Revenue Protection Unit which responded to complaints from Delta customers that their online accounts had been accessed and changed without their authorization, and their voucher assigned to other people without their permission. An audit of these accounts pointed to the defendant as the Delta employee who accessed the voucher system information for those accounts, which she later admitted to in an interview.

Defendant was a part-time customer service agent who actually did not issue expensive travel vouchers, rather she helped at the gates, with lost luggage, and could issue food vouchers for $6 or $7. Nevertheless, she was trained on the travel voucher system and had access to it. When she owed her co-defendant money, they agreed she could “pay him back” by supplying him with Delta travel voucher numbers and last names and he would take it from there.

The Complaint claims she provided her co-defendant with 60-100 voucher numbers and individuals’ last names “each night she worked for months“! The co-defendant, or “broker” as he is referred to, would sell the assignment of the vouchers for half their face value.

The Complaint estimates the loss at over $52,000.

The defendants are innocent until proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. (Federal data show that about 96-97% of federal defendants plead guilty.)