A fraudster who managed to swindle more than $300,000 out of five major airlines has been sentenced to nearly four years behind bars after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Pernell Anthony Jones Jr of Kenner, Louisiana, duped the likes of American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost luggage claims. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue also fell victims to Jone’s crimes.
Jones carried out his crimes for more than five years and even continued to submit fake claims after he was arrested at Dallas Love Airport in April 2018 when TSA security agents found 36 fraudulent driver’s licenses and 47 credit cards under fictitious names in his possession.
It wasn’t until March 2020, however, that Jones was eventually arrested at Louis Armstrong International Airport on suspicion of committing mail fraud when he went to pick up a reimbursement check for a fraudulent baggage claim.
Shortly after his arrest, investigators searched Jones’ house and uncovered 34 fraudulent driver’s licenses, 21 fake work identification cards, and even several fraudulent airline employee badges with his photo on them.
Investigators eventually pieced together how Jones got away with his fake luggage ploy for so long as they found evidence he had been using pre-loaded gift cards to purchase domestic flights under a fictitious identity.
Jones would then fly into or out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport using a fake ID that matched the fictitious identity and then make a claim with the airline for lost luggage. In some cases, Jones was so brazen that he didn’t even bother bringing a bag along with him to the airport.
Even so, Jones was still able to somehow obtain a check bag ticket which enabled him to file a lost luggage claim. He submitted long lists of high-value items that bumped up the claim to the maximum permitted value for a domestic flight of $3,500.
During the course of his five-year fraud, Jones submitted claims totalling $550,000, although airlines only paid out around $300,00.
Prosecutors didn’t reveal how the airlines eventually became suspicious of Jones’ criminal enterprise but it would appear that he was under surveillance for some time.
U. S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan sentenced Jones to 46 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. He will also have to pay restitution to the airlines to the tune of $327,451.61.
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.