The fraud prevention team of Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) made a profound discovery. In Chicago, US, a man named Rashid Minhas, who was operating as a travel agent, found to be committing fraud. He had devised an elaborate scam out of which he illegally obtained over $1.3 million – a substantial amount by any standards. In December, 2015, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held a case against Rashid Minhas. He was convicted on seven counts of fraud, was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison specifically for two big scams. Both involved clients who had paid for air bookings to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The ARC team played a huge role in the conviction of Minhas through the contribution of key airline ticketing data.
One such scam which Minhas devised was particularly devious. He sold air tickets to Pakistan and other destinations. Once the fees were collected, he took the cash and transferred it to overseas bank accounts. With the money deposited abroad, Minhas proceeded to void the tickets without the client’s knowledge. This led to total disarray and left the clients in difficult situations. Some were refused boarding at US airports. As for those who did board, they reached their destinations only to find that they had no valid return ticket. From this particular scam Minhas collected a little over $112000.
As for the second scam Minhas truly misled clients. Hajj is a religious pilgrimage which Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lives. They are expected to travel to Makkah where they are to follow certain rituals. It is a pilgrimage which usually spans over five to seven days. Therefore, Hajj packages are very popular among people of the faith. Minhas offered such packages to his victims. He offered them a range of travel packages. In light of what the US Attorney’s office in Chicago found, Minhas had not been accredited by the Saudi government as a representative. Hence he was in no position to offer out the required Saudi Arabian entry visas. This meant that the Hajj packages he was offering were not valid as they did not have the required visas. This caused great inconvenience and obvious despair for those who had made the intention of carrying out a religious obligation. Many of the clients were not allowed to board flights from US airports because they did not have the required Saudi Arabian visas. It was later noted that the money acquired from these non-Hajj business expenses were deposited in various ways. Where some were transferred to certain individuals in Pakistan, other amounts were used to cover Minhas’ own personal expenses. These included payments to his former wife and trips to Disney World.
Do you know: The Association of British Hujjaj estimates only 10 per cent of Hajj fraud is reported. (Source: Luton British Council)
ARC took a particularly strong stand against Minhas’ case and was very eager to settle the charges. As Doug Nass, ARC’s Manager of Fraud Investigation explained, it was important that such travel agents be not allowed to practice. He said it was important to oust out such fraudulent activities so that the industry does not suffer as a whole. There is no reason, he said, for the profession to suffer such bad press because of the actions of few who hold no respect for the law as well as the clients they are selling to. He clearly stated further, “This is one of the reasons why ARC was pleased to help the Justice Department convict this fraudster. Not only was Mr. Minhas a menace to unsuspecting clients, he was also an affront to the hard-working and honest travel agents who serve their customers every day with integrity. ARC will continue to support the travel industry by aiding in similar legal efforts in the future by providing our expertise and data.”
ARC has so far been directly working hand in hand with participating agencies and over 200 carriers towards increasing revenue through a legit manner. And they will continue to do so for time to come.
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