Pair spared jail after admitting conning airlines in mid-air duty free scam
Two fraudulent flyers have been spared jail over a cunning mid-air credit card scam.
Peter Jackson and Geoffrey Dunn used "maxed out" credit cards to stock up on duty frees during cheap flights, knowing the purchases would be authorised due to an airline banking loophole.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how cabin staff were unable to check the credit available on the cards in mid-flight, meaning all transactions were automatically authorised.
It was only after the planes landed that the airline system could connect to the banks to check how much credit was available.
By then, the pals had got away with hundreds of pounds worth of purchases they had no intention of paying for.
Prosecutor Johnny Walker said the men, who each used various names, caught cheap flights from Newcastle to the continent to carry out the scam.
He said: "In essence, the defendants realised there was a system whereby deploying maxed out credit cards and debit cards while in flight would allow goods to be taken, effectively, purportedly paid for.
"The relevant companies in question were unable to realise that fact until the electronic device that had been used to take payment was married up to a world wide web-orientated device at the eventual destination."
The court heard the men splashed out on £1,500 worth of duty free goods during two round trips between Newcastle, London and Geneva on Easy Jet flights in January and February 2015.
A few weeks previously Jackson had spent around 1,750 euros in Aer Lingus trips in an identical fraud on flights between Manchester and Dublin.
Jackson, 54, of Gilpin House, Stockton, admitted seven fraud charges.
He was sentenced to five months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a three-month night-time curfew.
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Dunn, 59, of Marina Parade, Saltburn-by-the-sea, admitted four fraud charges.
He was sentenced to four months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a two-month night-time curfew.
Judge Tim Gittins told them: "What you did was to use the loophole, knowing that such transactions on flights would not be processed until the flights had landed because of the difficulties with internet connection at the time.
"I suspect that since the offences that position has changed and it is less likely someone will be able to get away with that sort of dishonesty.
"You obtained duty free goods in large amounts compared to what people would normally purchase on such flights, knowing full well your cards were full to the limit."
The court heard Jackson has previous convictions for evading duty on cigarettes and exceeding the duty free limit allowed.
Dunn has a previous conviction for evading duty on cigarettes by purchasing a cheap flight to Jersey, stocking up at the airport duty free and then leaving without boarding the flight.
Anne Marie Hutton, defending Jackson, said a "loophole was manipulated", but the cards used by the men were easily traced back to them.
Miss Hutton said Jackson got involved in the scam after he fell into debt with loan sharks.
David Comb, defending Dunn, said the offences were not sophisticated. He added that Dunn has enormous personal responsibilities due to the ill health of family members.