Former Southwest Airlines Employees Charged in Ticket Scam

Eight former employees of Southwest Airlines Co. have been charged with wire fraud after allegedly stealing more than $1 million from the company in a scheme involving used tickets.

The workers would issue already-used tickets to customers who paid cash, giving the traveler a ticket that should have been voided in Southwest's systems, according to a federal grand jury indictment, returned last week.

Investigators said the Southwest workers, employed at El Paso International Airport, collected cash on transactions from March 2000 through January 2003.

Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Southwest, said no passengers were stuck with worthless tickets from the scheme. She said the agents recorded cash ticket purchases as exchanges and pocketed the money. Southwest had since changed its controls to prevent similar abuse.

The workers were dismissed in March 2003, King said.

The Associated Press was unable to reach the former workers, and court records did not list attorneys for them.

Six of the defendants also face conspiracy charges. If convicted, all face at least five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

The case took years to reach a grand jury because "hundreds to thousands of tickets" had to be compared to detect the fraud, an FBI spokeswoman in El Paso, Andrea Simmons, told the San Antonio Express-News for a story Monday.

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