Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Mon January 25 2016

How ARC Helped Convict Scam Artist Travel Agent

Impacting Travel | Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) | Robin Amster | January 25, 2016

How ARC Helped Convict Scam Artist Travel Agent

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

A Chicago-based travel  agent has been convicted of seven counts of fraud for scams involving clients who paid for—but did not receive—air bookings to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last month convicted Rashid Minhas with help from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) fraud prevention team whose testimony and evidence was critical in the case. Minhas was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.

Minhas sold his clients tickets for flights to Pakistan and other destinations and pocketed more than $112,000 in cash, which he then transferred to bank accounts overseas, the Department of Justice said. He then voided the tickets without customers’ knowledge so that he wouldn’t be liable to the various airlines for ticket costs.

In the first scam, many customers had  been able—before the fraud was discovered—to board planes at U.S. airports for their outbound legs, only to find themselves stranded overseas with voided return tickets. Others were simply refused boarding.

In the second scam, Minhas sold customers various travel packages to complete “Hajj,” an obligatory, once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage for Muslims to the holy city of Mecca, according to the prosecution.

Minhas falsely represented that each package included the required Saudi Arabian entry visa, even though the Saudi government had not accredited him as a representative.

In this case, Minhas’s clients were also stranded at airports around the U.S. because they could not travel to Saudi Arabia without the visa. Minhas used the money he received for non-Hajj business expenses, transfers to individuals in Pakistan and personal expenses including payments to his former wife and trips to Disney World.

“Whenever there is a rogue travel agent who acts in the manner such as Mr. Minhas, they create an unfavorable image that can linger over the agency community,” said Doug Nass, ARC’s manager of fraud investigations.

“This is one of the reasons why ARC was pleased to help the Justice Department convict this fraudster,”Nass added. “Not only was Mr. Minhas a menace to unsuspecting clients, he was also an affront to the hard-working and honest travel agents that 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.”


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