Selling Fake Bomb Detectors Lands UK Businessman In Jail

fake bomb detectors
What Bolton and McCormick really deserve. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.

Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.

Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.

Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.

It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.

Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?

Scammer Found Selling Fake Bomb Detectors To Airports

bomb detectorsA British court has found a man guilty of selling fake bomb detectors to Iraq and Georgia, the BBC reports. James McCormick, 56, of Langport, Somerset, was found guilty of fraud after making a fortune from detectors he knew didn’t work.

He’s estimated to have made some $76 million from the worthless devices, which were modeled after a novelty golf ball finder. In his sales pitches he claimed they could be set to find anything from bombs to money to drugs. Researchers found no scientific basis for his claims.

Both nations that bought the devices have serious problems with terrorism, and adventure travelers that venture to these places were put in danger by McCormick’s greed. In Georgia last year, someone put a bomb under the car of an Israeli embassy staffer, and bombings in Iraq are a frequent occurrence.

The BBC says the devices are still at use at “some” checkpoints. When I was traveling in Iraq in October 2012, I saw them in use at every checkpoint I passed through, including the checkpoints to Baghdad airport. Many people already knew they didn’t work; yet they were still used to “scan” every vehicle. Senior Iraqi officials were bribed to use government funds (i.e. U.S. taxpayer dollars) to buy the devices. Three of these officials are now serving prison terms.

McCormick lulled the Iraqi police and army into a false sense of security and endangered the lives of everyone in Iraq, including myself. To say this makes me angry doesn’t even come close to what I feel towards this scumbag, and it makes me wonder about the other “security devices” we rely on. Last year the TSA removed backscatter x-ray body scanners from some airports for fear of cancer risks and replaced them with less harmful millimeter-wave scanners. The effectiveness of x-ray scanners has also been questioned.

I’m glad to see McCormick is finally facing justice, but I think he’s been found guilty of the wrong thing. He didn’t perpetrate fraud; he aided and abetted terrorism. He should spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement, kept company only by graphic photos of Iraq’s bombing victims.

[Photo courtesy Avon and Somerset Police]

American Airlines ticket agent accused of half million dollar credit card fraud

american airlines ticket agentA (now former) American Airlines ticket agent from San Jose airport has been arrested upon suspicion of a running a major credit card theft scam.

Micheline Johnson, pictured here, worked the airline ticket counter at Mineta San Jose International airport for American Airlines. As part of her job, she regularly dealt with passenger credit cards to pay for tickets, fees and other charges. Each time she was handed a credit card, she would make a copy of the data stored on the card and hand it back to the passenger.

Using special equipment, she then made replicas of the cards, and made purchases at Safeway stores in California, Nevada and Washington between 2007 and 2010. In total, she is accused of making at least 2,800 transactions on 350 credit cards, totaling over $480,000.

Using the cloned cards, she would purchase gift cards, then use those cards to buy electronics which she then sold on eBay.

Prosecutors say they do not know how she made copies of the cards, but her scam was uncovered when someone turned on her and notified Safeway. Unfortunately, none of the high-tech fraud protection systems in place at credit card companies were able to pinpoint the fraud to cards used at the airport, and if weren’t for the person that notified Safeway, this fraud could have gone undiscovered for many more years. Johnson had worked for American Airlines for ten years. She is now being charged with grand theft, possession of stolen property and identity theft. Bail was set at $1 million. If convicted, she faces up to twenty years in jail.

This ticket agent scam was reported the same day a travel agent was caught selling thousands of fake travel vouchers to unsuspecting customers – clearly not a good day for honest people.

[Photo: San Jose DA]

Airlines getting scammed online, fighting back

Airlines lose a boatload of cash – tens of millions of dollars a year – because of online fraud. Think about it: you pay for your pillow and to check a bag because some degenerate can’t bother to work for a living. The airlines are keeping their customers in mind (shockingly), though, and they’re fighting back. Better protection systems, increased staff and a higher priority for prevention are now on the agenda as carriers seek to protect their coffers.

The stakes are high, and airlines are exposed. A Deloitte UK survey conducted in 2009, with 50 U.S. and global airlines responding, report that 48 percent have seen increases in fraud year-over-year, with average losses of $2.4 million a year. Yet, it could be far, far worse. CyberSource and Airline Information conducted a poll and came to an estimated loss amount of $1.4 billion in 2008.

According to USA Today:

“The general feedback from everybody … is that they see it getting worse,” says Graham Pickett, partner in charge of aviation services for Deloitte UK, which conducted its survey for the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors. “The main driver has been … the Internet, and in particular credit card type bookings.”

Airlines have invested in protecting their profits over the past two years, especially the larger companies. Of course, they aren’t all that willing to talk about specific measures:

“Common sense on this issue limits a discussion of what we do to track, prevent and seek prosecution of such occurrences,” says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines. “We’re just not interested in providing a ‘how to’ lesson on the subject.”

The cyber-attack on airlines comes after online travel agencies, such as Orbitz, steeled their systems. For a while, they were the primary targets, with Orbitz, for example, getting spanked for millions of dollars a month by fraudsters.

The anti-fraud measures appear to be working. AirTran‘s team has reduced fraud losses to less than 1 percent of revenue, and Southwest says it has cut fraud by 73 percent.

How much does this matter? Think about all the small cuts you’ve had to deal with as a passenger. Every dollar matters to the airlines. Cutting fraud losses is just putting cash back in your pocket.

[photo by jepoirrier via Flickr]

Keep tabs on your tabs – International travel tip

Carry an envelope to keep every charge slip you accrue — but before filing them away, write the date, location, and reason for the charge on them.

Your monthly statement will likely list the charge detail in the language of the country where you traveled. Having your own notes on the receipts will give you a way to reconcile to your statement and provide extra assurance that all charges were legitimate.

[Photo: Flickr | Tim Morgan]