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December 6, 08

NEWS / Travel Agent Sentenced for $571,000 in Bogus Ticket Refunds

A federal judge today sentenced travel agent Frank Serio to 15 months in prison for defrauding eight airlines and Amtrak out of $571,000 in a bogus ticket refund scheme. Serio, who owned and operated Providence-based Travel Concepts, Inc., manipulated a travel industry purchasing system to buy tickets at steep discounts and then obtained refunds at full price.

United States Attorney Robert Clark Corrente announced the sentence, which Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi imposed in U.S. District Court, Providence. Judge Lisi also ordered Serio to serve an additional year in community confinement after his prison sentence, and to make full restitution to the airline companies and Amtrak.

In August, Serio pleaded guilty to wire fraud. At the plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker said the government could prove that, between 2004 and October 2007, Serio defrauded eight airlines and Amtrak by purchasing hundreds of tickets in other persons’ names, some real, some fictitious. He bought the tickets with either a business or personal credit card through Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), which is a ticket purchasing facilitator for travel agents. Serio used fraudulent voucher numbers to buy the tickets at steep discounts, using either bogus voucher numbers or numbers reserved for the carriers’ employees and their relatives.

Within days or weeks of a purchase, Serio requested a refund through ARC at the full ticket price. Serio thus obtained refunds totaling $571,000 from U.S. Airways, British Airways, Amtrak, and Delta, American, United, Northwest, Continental, and Royal Jordanian Airlines. He used the money for a variety of personal expenses, including car payments to BMW Financial Services and Inskip Audi.

Serio must report to prison on January 5. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.

Contact: 401-709-5032 Thomas.connell@usdoj.gov

Tags: corporation,


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