Trio charged with white-collar crimes in airport fraud scheme

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2014 | White Collar Crime

White collar crimes usually stand apart from other types of crimes because they are almost always nonviolent in nature and typically require some cunning and ingenuity to pull off. Whether they are Ponzi schemes, crimes involving insider trading or some form of copyright infringements, white-collar crimes usually take years to uncover and often involve large sums of money. Such is the case with an alleged money-laundering scheme involving three people connected with the Miami-Dade airport.

Prosecutors with the Miami-Dade state’s attorney’s office say that a husband and wife, 47-years old and 45-years old respectively, teamed up with one of their coworkers, a 47-year-old woman, to defraud and steal more than $2 million from the Miami-Dade County’s aviation department.

According to investigators, the wife was an account manager with a private company tasked with running the first-class Club America Lounge at the airport. Investigators say the defendant handled money from at least 11 air carriers to allow passengers into the county’s upscale lounge areas. Prosecutors allege that the trio diverted the money paid by the airlines on behalf of those passengers into personal accounts at Wells Fargo Bank instead of adding it to the county’s coffers.

One prosecutor described the defendant’s actions as greedy. That prosecutor also said that their fraudulent activity and thefts escaped detection because they were trusted employees who work for the county and used their positions in a conspiracy to steal. Jail records indicate each member of the trio was charged with organized fraud, grand theft and money laundering.

Ultimately, airport accountants who were conducting an audit discovered the discrepancies regarding the upscale lounge area. Officials with the Miami-Dade Police Department says that the trio used their white collar crime scheme to purchase a lavish home and to pay off an enormous credit card debt estimated at $548,000. It appears that the defendants also used some of the money to take out car loans and to pay in advance for portions of college tuition fees.

Despite the seeming overwhelming case against the three defendants, it is important to remember that the prosecution has the duty to prove the allegations against them beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not always an easy task, and sometimes prosecutors would prefer that defendants enter into negotiations to plead guilty to lesser crimes rather than force them to prove the charges.

Source: NBC Miami 6, “3 Charged in Airport Money Laundering Scheme” Willard Shepard and Alexandra Leon, Jul. 31, 2014

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