Ai Inthavong Lopez, 37, of Amarillo, appeared in federal court this morning before U.S. District Court Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Lopez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for July 11, 2017.
According to plea documents, from May 2014, and continuing through November 2015, Lopez participated in a scheme involving the sale of fictitious vouchers for future airline travel.
Specifically, Lopez, and persons acting at her direction, would telephonically contact customers in the United States who were falsely informed that they could purchase a voucher for either a round-trip domestic or international flights. Lopez claimed to customers that she was Stephanie Cancino, and that she received discounts on airline tickets through her employment.
Lopez would persuade some customers of her scheme, who did not know of the fraudulent nature of the scheme, to contact other customers over the phone to purchase airline vouchers for future travel. Customers who purchased vouchers would provide personal information, such as name, email address, phone number, and credit card information to Lopez. Lopez would receive money from customers via the United States Postal Service, PayPal, wire transfers, bank transfers, and credit card payments. Lopez, at times, would use the customer’s credit card to purchase other customers’ flight tickets.
To entice customers, Lopez would contact customers about vouchers for one-day sales or special promotions. Lopez knew actual airline tickets purchased by Lopez cost significantly more than the amount a customer paid to purchase the voucher. Lopez continued to solicit customers by promising vouchers below the market rate. Lopez would often have the customers purchase their airline tickets when they were stranded and Lopez would promise to reimburse the customer for the amount they spent. Several times during the course of this scheme, Lopez provided a check to customers to reimburse them for their loss, but the check would be returned to the customer by the bank due to insufficient funds. Lopez would then stop communication with the customer.
As a result of the scheme, Lopez’s false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises fraudulently induced customers to issue monetary payments to Lopez, and for the benefit of Lopez, resulting in a total loss of approximately $401,955.06.