Former travel agent ordered to repay airlines almost $600,000
A former Grand Junction travel agent was ordered Monday to pay nearly $600,000 in restitution and court fees for a scheme that defrauded major airlines out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Rodney Thompson, the former owner of Travel Masters, 1133 Patterson Road, was ordered by District Judge Thomas Deister to repay $580,575 to five airlines, all victims of a ticketing scheme allegedly operated by Thompson. Thompson, who was sentenced Monday, pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of felony theft between $1,000 and $20,000 as part of an agreement with the Mesa County District Attorney’s office in which prosecutors dismissed another 11 felony counts.
Thompson, 53, was sentenced to 30 years of probation and will serve at least the next six years in Mesa County Community Corrections. He was ordered to complete 2,400 hours of community service.
Deister on Monday ordered that Thompson be restricted from obtaining any employment that would involve him handling any financial transaction.
Thompson has remained free on bond since shortly after his arrest in February 2010. A search warrant affidavit said Grand Junction police launched an investigation after receiving an audit from United Airlines claiming Travel Masters had defrauded the carrier out of more than $340,000 between November 2003 and September 2009.
The alleged scheme entailed Travel Masters collecting fees from customers for a booked flight, but Travel Masters would void the ticket within a period of seven days. Travel agencies are required to pay airlines and book tickets within seven days of taking a customer’s money.
Travel Masters then attained the tickets at a reduced rate but charged the customer the original price and pocketed the difference, authorities said.
Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Luftansa Airlines and American Airways also suspected they were victims in the scheme, the search warrant affidavit said.