A Louisiana man faces up to 20 years in prison for making $300,000 over five years by submitting 180 fake claims about lost luggage to a number of different U.S. airlines.
Pernell Anthony Jones Jr., 31, of Kenner, Louisiana, requested a total of $550,000 in reimbursements since 2015 from American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, according to court documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
He carried out the scheme by booking commercial flights in or out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport using fake IDs that included his photo with a fictitious name. Jones would pay for the flights with preloaded gift cards to avoid having the purchases traced back to him.
When he made lost luggage claims, Jones provided the addresses of at least seven different friends or associates for the airlines to send the reimbursement checks. Police identified one of those friends as Donmonick Martin, 29, of Chalmette, Louisiana, who accepted reimbursements checks on at least four occasions.
Martin also allowed Jones to use his PayPal account to accept payments from JetBlue, the documents alleged. He faces up to five years in prison for his role in the scheme.
On one occasion, in January 2020, Martin tried Jones’s scheme himself by going to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and claiming that American Airlines lost his luggage, according to the court documents. It is not clear if his fake claim was successful.
When Jones made his claims, he would give airlines a list of expensive items he said were in his lost luggage bags and ensured that the prices would reach $3,500 – the maximum amount airlines are legally allowed to reimburse for lost luggage.
Prosecutors said that Jones was so brash about his scheme that sometimes he wouldn’t even bring a bag to the airport, yet still obtained a ticket for a checked item and make the fake claims.
He was arrested on March 19, 2020, and on the same day, he had 22 fake driver’s licenses shipped from China to Martin’s home. It’s not clear why he was sending the IDs to Martin from China or if this is what led to his arrest that day.
Jones is being charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He faces a $250,000 fine in addition to at most 20 years in prison
Martin was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
The court documents do not reveal how airlines became suspicious of the two men’s actions or what led to their arrests.
U.S. airlines mishandled about four bags for every 1,000 checked in 2020, according to the Department of Transportation’s Travel Consumer Report. Of the 209 million bags checked the same year, only five percent were never returned to their owners.Internet Explorer Channel Network