Loveland Man Sentenced Four Years Involving Airline Tickets Fraud <


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Loveland Man Sentenced Four Years Involving Airline Tickets Fraud

By Bill Goldston

March 11, 2010 - Christopher B. Watts, age 59, of Loveland, Colorado, was sentenced on Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to serve 51 months (over four years) in federal prison for wire fraud related to a scheme purportedly selling discount airline tickets that did not exist.

Following his prison sentence, Watts was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution totaling $495,397 to nearly 90 victims. The defendant, who is free on bond, was ordered to report to a facility designated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons within 15 days of designation.

Christopher B. Watts was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on May 5, 2008. He pled guilty before Judge Blackburn on February 9, 2009. He was sentenced last Friday. According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, beginning around April 2005, and continuing through around October 2007, Watts devised and executed a scheme to defraud various people by fraudulently purporting to sell them “books” of airline tickets.

As part of the scheme, Watts falsely represented that he had access to free or discounted airline tickets based on a retirement package he had received from an airline which had formerly employed him or based on his connections within the airline industry. Watts usually purported to sell customers the fraudulent tickets in “books” supposedly containing multiples of five tickets.

Watts falsely represented that the records related to the airline tickets he purported to sell were exclusively maintained in an electronic format and that he was required to personally contact the airline in order for tickets to be issued. This allowed him to prevent his customers from discovering that the ticket books he purported to sell did not actually exist. Watts used e-mail to communicate with his customers. The submission of requests directly to him further assisted in preventing the discovery of his fraud.

Watts satisfied some of his customers’ requests for airline tickets by purchasing regularly priced tickets, usually from a travel agent, and then falsely representing them to be redeemed discount tickets. On a few occasions, he offered customers additional discounts on books of tickets if they would use credit cards to immediately purchase additional books of tickets.

Watts then used the credit card numbers of those customers to purchase full-fare tickets for other customers who thought they were redeeming discounted tickets. On other occasions, Watts used proceeds from payments for books of tickets made by customers via check or wire transfer to purchase tickets for other customers who thought there were redeeming discounted tickets.

“This case proves the age-old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette. “This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s continuing commitment to aggressively investigate complex financial crimes, especially when 90 victims are targeted by an individual,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis.

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