UPDATE: Pernell Anthony Jones, pictured above, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of committing mail fraud for his role in orchestrating a phony lost luggage scheme that sough to defraud over $500,000 from a number of U.S. airlines.
In 2015, Jones began taking “flights with commercial airlines under false or fictitious identities using fraudulent identification cards.” When he arrived at the destination airport, Jones falsely claimed that his baggage was lost and requested reimbursement to compensate him for his lost luggage.
In July 2018, Jones was arrested at Dallas Love Field (DAL) after he was found to be carrying 36 fraudulent driver’s licenses and 47 credit cards under fictitious names. In March 2020, Jones was arrested at New Orleans Airport (MSY) for while attempting to pick up a reimbursement check for a fraudulent baggage claim.
Law enforcement officials searched his property and found:
- 34 fraudulent driver’s licenses
- 21 fake work identification cards
- “a number of” fraudulent airline employee badges containing Jone’s photograph
For each count, Jones faces a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000, plus up to three years of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
The original story is below.
The jig is up for Donmonick Martin and Pernell Anthony Jones Junior. The two men have been charged by federal prosectors after allegedly scamming major airlines out of over $300,000 in compensation for luggage that was never actually lost.
Men Net Over $300,000 In Elaborate Luggage Scheme To File Claims For “Missing” Checked Bags, Now Face Prison
Here’s how the scam went:
Pernell Anthony Jones Jr, 31, of Kenner and Donmonick Martin, 29, of Chalmette are accused of collaborating to submit more than 180 claims over five years to American, Alaska, United, JetBlue and other airlines for nonexistent lost luggage.
As part of the plot, Jones flew on commercial airlines under fictitious names and with fake identification from 2015 to last year, the government contends. When he arrived at his destinations, he allegedly reported his luggage was lost and requested compensation from the airlines, which mailed him reimbursement checks.
Martin agreed to allow his home address and PayPal account to be used for receipt of reimbursements, and on one occasion falsely reported a lost bag himself at Louis Armstrong International Airport, prosecutors alleged.
This started in 2015 and went strong for nearly five years. But despite filing claims for over $550,000 in lost baggage and collecting over $300,000, the two continued their deception and were finally apprehended. Now Jones faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $600,000 ($250,000 or twice the ill-gotten gain is the statutory limit). Martin also faces a $250,000 fine, but only up to five years in prison.
Keep in mind the domestic limit on checked baggage compensation is $3,500 so this was a high-volume scam. With more high-definition cameras in airports these days and much savvier software to track checked baggage, replicating such a scheme is much more difficult than it ever has been.
View From The Wing shares that when he was a kid luggage tags were still matched with passenger stubs in the baggage claim of New York airports. As recently as a few years ago, this was still the case at New York LaGuardia (how antiquated, I thought).
But this scam was different. Although details were not provided by the Department of Justice press release, it seems far-fetched to claim a bag was stolen when there was no record of having checked that bag in the first place. Instead, bags were checked, discreetly claimed, and then claimed to be lost. Such a trick effectively circumvents any baggage inspectors who still may be stationed in airports.
Crime doesn’t pay, being greedy doesn’t pay, and these two men may have had $300,00o in their pocket, but now they’re going to have to give it all up and then some, plus face jail time (though likely a much smaller sentence than the statutory maximums). In the age of cameras and the smart tracking of luggage, I cannot see this trick being scalable or repeatable any longer.
mugshots: Caddo Correctional Center