A fraud ring believed responsible for more than $1 million in illegal sales of airline tickets has been broken up in South Los Angeles, authorities said Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said one man has been arrested and nine other federal indictments are pending against the leaders of a ring that allegedly brokered fraudulently purchased tickets to travelers throughout the country.
Operating as The Ticket Man, agents of the ring used stolen credit card numbers to purchase tickets by telephone. Some tickets were delivered to prospective purchasers at substantial discounts, and others were cashed in, Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Petitt said.
In a search of one Los Angeles home, authorities seized tickets valued at $25,000 and ledgers documenting a total of at least $175,000 in tickets charged to American Express cards alone, Petitt said.
'Amount of Bookings'
"Based on the amount of time they were investing and the amount of bookings in the ledger books, we figure that this fraud exceeded $1 million over the last four years," Petitt said.
Walter Reamey of Las Vegas, identified as an alleged participant in the scheme, was arrested last month and released on $25,000 bond. He is scheduled for arraignment Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
According to an affidavit filed by federal postal inspectors, an informant told investigators that the ring obtained credit card numbers from discarded contracts at a San Diego rental car agency, then used the numbers to purchase airline tickets by telephone.
The tickets were mailed to a variety of addresses, and in some instances, forwarded to members of the ring through the cooperation of a South Los Angeles letter carrier, who is expected to be indicted in the case, Petitt said.
The informant identified six members of the ring, including Reamey, according to the affidavit.
Stack of Cards
A search of Reamey's car after his arrest allegedly produced four airline tickets worth a total of $1,684 and issued in four names through three credit card numbers.
"They would use a credit card number, they would order tickets for whoever wanted them and then they would order one extra ticket in the name of the credit card holder that could be sold to anybody, who would trade it in for face value for travel," Petitt said.
Petitt said credit card holders whose accounts were charged for the tickets have been reimbursed in most cases, with the airlines absorbing most of the losses, but he said many customers have had to wait months to have their accounts credited.