A fraudster made over $300,000 by convincing the likes of American Airlines, United and Southwest Airlines that they had lost his luggage on more than 180 occasions. JetBlue and Alaska Airlines also fell victim to Pernell Jones Jr’s fraudulent lost luggage claims over a five year period allege prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Jones, now aged 31, of Kenner, Louisiana, faces a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment, plus a fine of $250,000 after being charged with Mail Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18 of United States Code, Sections 1341 and 1349.
Court documents that were unsealed late last week reveal that Jones had been submitting fake claims for lost luggage since 2015. He continued racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims until he was eventually caught in March 2020.
The ploy involved Jones booking domestic flights online using pre-loaded gift cards in order to avoid leaving a trace of his real name and address so that he could make bookings using a fictitious identity.
Jones would then fly into or out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport using a forged form of identification before claiming the airline had lost his luggage. Prosecutors claim Jones became so brazen in his money-making plot that sometimes he wouldn’t even bother bringing a bag along with him to the airport.
He was still able to obtain a ticket for a checked bag and then file a fake lost luggage claim. Providing airline staff with long lists of high-value items that had been allegedly lost, Jones would submit claims for the maximum reimbursement available for a domestic flight – $3,500.
In total, Jones attempted to claim more than half a million dollars from airlines but managed to get around $300,000 in successful claims.
One of Jones’ acquaintances, Donmonic Martin has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud for his part in the scam. In January 2020, Martin went to MSY airport and falsely told American Airlines his luggage had been lost.
Martin is also accused of accepting compensation payments from airlines on behalf of Jones on four other occasions.
Both men are charged with mail fraud because they conspired to have the compensation payments mailed through the US postal service.
U.S. Attorney Duane Evans did not say how the airlines eventually became suspicious of the two men’s actions and what led to their eventual arrest. Evans did note, however, that the bill of information is merely a charge and guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.