A former Bellevue travel agent has been charged with wire fraud in connection with stealing 3.7 million frequent flier miles from high-end clients, according to charging papers filed this week in federal court.
According to federal prosecutors, Karen Yeakel worked at Stellar Travel in Bellevue when she devised two schemes involving purchasing airline tickets using her clients' credit cards and their frequent flier accounts. Stellar Travel partners told The Associated Press that Yeakel was fired in June 2011 after the company discovered discrepancies in the clients' accounts.
Between February 2005 and June 2011, Yeakel was entrusted with credit card numbers and frequent flier accounts for a number of "high net worth individuals," according to the federal charging documents.
The U.S. Attorney's Office accuses Yeakel of purchasing airline tickets to destinations such as Hawaii and Mexico at full price using her clients' credit cards, and then selling them to other customers at a discount. According to federal prosecutors, she requested that they pay her in cash, which she then kept. The scheme cost her clients more than $180,000 in losses, according to the charging papers.
Yeakel also used miles from her clients' accounts to purchase 135 flights for herself and her family, between February 2008 and June 2011, worth more than $109,000, according to the charging papers.
Have your frequent flier miles ever been stolen? Do you keep close track of your frequent flier miles? Tell us in the comments.