Man Indicted for Scamming Delta Out of 42 Million SkyBonus Points (and $1.75M)

Here’s how he pulled it off ... until now

Delta Airlines Airplane
How many SkyBonus points do you have? Over the course of his fraud scheme, Gennady Podolsky had 42 million.
Lukas Souza/Unsplash
By Alex Lauer / September 13, 2019 11:46 am

People do all sorts of things to rack up frequent flyer miles. They open credit cards, make unnecessary purchases and set up business accounts. But when it comes to the case of 43-year-old Gennady Podolsky, no one has done it quite like him.

Between March 2014 and April 2015, allegedly, Podolsky fraudulently accrued over 42 million SkyBonus points with Delta, which led to a loss of $1.75 million for the airline. That’s according to an indictment, as summarized in a press release from the United States Department of Justice. Podolsky has now been arraigned for wire fraud.

How does one person accrue 42 million frequent flyer points? First you have to know a thing or two about how those reward programs work, and Podolsky was the managing partner and lead travel agent of Chicago travel agency Vega Travel. Specifically for this case, you also have to know that Delta’s SkyBonus program lets businesses receive points as their employees accrue points under the SkyMiles program.

Here’s how Podolsky allegedly carried out the scheme: First, he registered a SkyBonus account in the name of a fertility center owned by a family member of the president of Vega Travel. Then, when Vega Travel booked passengers on Delta, the agency connected those tickets to that SkyBonus account, even though the flyers were not employees of the fertility center. “Podolsky then caused the SkyBonus points that had fraudulently accrued to be redeemed by requesting, receiving, and utilizing reward certificates for free air travel and other valuable benefits,” according to the press release.

It’s a scheme worthy of Catch Me If You Can. And in this case, they caught him. Although, Podolsky has simply been indicted and has yet to stand trial.

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