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Former airline sales agent pleads guilty to wire fraud

The crime of wire fraud is very similar to the crime of mail fraud. Broadly defined, wire fraud includes creating a scheme to defraud another person through a lie or misrepresentation that involves the use of interstate wires. The concept of interstate wires is broad enough to include actions on the internet and actions involving the use of credit cards.

On Tuesday, a sales agent working for Continental Airlines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for allegedly swindling that airline's customers. According to federal prosecutors, the 33-year-old woman sold more than 2,000 fake travel vouchers for $500 to $600 a piece. The vouchers are the type that airlines normally use to compensate travelers in cases of overbooking, flight cancellations and other problems that can arise with flights.

Continental fired the sales agent after an internal investigation. Continental and law enforcement authorities became suspicious of the woman when she purchased $587,000 worth of tickets on her own credit card and deposited more than $1 million in her personal bank account.

Prosecutors believe the sales agent sold the vouchers for an eight-month period in 2009 and that the vouchers were often worthless pieces of paper. To keep the scheme going, she needed to purchase actual tickets. However, the price of tickets escalated beyond the price she was allegedly charging for the false vouchers and she was no longer able to keep up with demand for the vouchers.

As a result of her guilty plea to the white collar charges, she now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and she will likely have to pay restitution to the victims of her alleged scheme.

Source: CNN, "Former airline agent admits scamming travelers," Marnie Hunter, 2/16/2011

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