Travel agent cheated his way to 42M Delta frequent flyer points, feds say

A Chicago travel agent is accused of running a fraud that netted him 42 million Delta SkyBonus points worth more than $1.75 million.

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A federal grand jury indicted Gennady Podolsky, a dual Ukrainian and U.S. citizen, this week on 12 counts of wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said Podolsky used his position as the managing partner and lead travel agent at Vega Travel Services, Inc., to devise and execute the scheme to defraud Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

Delta’s SkyBonus program is the business-focused version of its frequent-flyer program. Pak said Podolsky arranged for a SkyBonus account to be registered in the name of a fertility center owned by a relative of Vega Travel’s president.

When Podolsky booked Delta flights for its customers who were unaffiliated with the fertility clinic, he would use the clinic’s SkyBonus account, fraudulently accruing millions of points, according to Pak.

He then used the points for free air travel and other benefits, the U.S. attorney said.

“Podolsky used his knowledge of the travel industry to take advantage of his travel agency clients,” Pak said. “Through his access, he allegedly took advantage of Delta Air Lines corporate frequent flyer program, illegally reaping millions of SkyBonus points worth more than $1.75 million.”

The FBI investigated the case. Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, said the goverment would prosecute anyone engaged in similar scams.

“The fraudulent accumulation of frequent flyer miles in the travel industry may seem like a victimless crime, however, large corporations stand to lose significant profits,” Hacker said.