ARLINGTON, VA – The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last month convicted Rashid Minhas, a Chicago-based travel agent, of seven counts of fraud. Minhas was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for two scams concerning clients who paid for, but did not receive, air bookings to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The fraud prevention team at Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) played a critical role in Minhas’s conviction, contributing key airline ticketing data testimony.
During one scam, Minhas sold his victims air tickets for flights to Pakistan and other destinations and pocketed more than $112,000 in cash, which he then transferred to bank accounts overseas. He then proceeded to void the tickets without customers’ knowledge so that he would not be liable to the various airlines for ticket costs. Before the fraud was discovered, many deceived customers were able to board planes for their outbound legs, only to find themselves stranded overseas with voided return tickets. Other victims were refused boarding at U.S. airports. ARC’s evidence and testimony was key to the conviction of Minhas in this case.
In the second scam, Minhas sold victims various travel packages to complete “Hajj,” an obligatory, once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage for Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, 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. This, again, left Minhas’s clients stranded at airports around the U.S. because they could not travel to Saudi Arabia without the visa. Minhas used the pocketed money 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. 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.”