Travel agency owner jailed in alleged theft

The owner of a local travel agency was arrested Friday on allegations he profited from a scheme to defraud several airlines out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Rodney Alan Thompson, 52, was booked into the Mesa County Jail around 2:30 p.m. after his arrest by Grand Junction police on a warrant alleging two counts of felony theft greater than $20,000, one count of felony theft of $1,000 to $20,000, two counts of first-degree forgery, and committing a computer crime resulting in the loss of more than $20,000.

Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said a warrant was issued for Thompson’s arrest Thursday, but officers couldn’t find him. Thompson was arrested Friday at the Mesa County Justice Center, 125 N. Spruce St., although it wasn’t clear how he ended up in custody.

A Grand Junction police detective in December obtained a search warrant for Thompson’s business, Travel Masters, 1133 Patterson Road, Suite 5, after officials with United Airlines reported the results of an audit, which suggested the business had defrauded United out of just over $340,000 between November 2003 and September 2009, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The affidavit alleged Travel Masters would collect fees from customers for a booked airline flight, then void the ticket within seven days.

Travel agencies are required to pay airlines and book tickets within seven days of taking customers’ money.

“In this case, Travel Masters voided the ticket within seven days to avoid paying United and reissued the tickets a few days before the scheduled travel date at a much reduced rate,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit said Travel Masters reissued tickets using legitimate discount codes in a fraudulent manner, or the agency would override a computer system to get a reduced rate for the flight originally purchased. Travel Masters collected the extra cash, authorities said.

Aside from United’s complaints, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa Airlines, and American Airways also detected the suspected fraudulent use of discount codes, the affidavit said.

Thompson is being held at the jail on $50,000 bond.


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