FlyerTalk Member Ordered to Pay Air Canada $36,551.27 in Restitution After Pleading Guilty to Scam

A member of FlyerTalk was granted a conditional discharge by a judge in the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Richmond on Wednesday, December 20, 2017; and was ordered in a decision to pay Air Canada a total of $36,551.27 in restitution after he pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining transportation from the airline back in 2013.

FlyerTalk Member Ordered to Pay Air Canada $36,551.27 in Restitution After Pleading Guilty to Scam

Marc Anthony Tacchi — who is 42 years old and is currently employed as a pilot for the subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airlines known as Cathay Dragon — was allegedly responsible for booking $35,996.95 worth of free flights using a redemption code from a mystery shopping program and collected $554.33 in frequent flier miles as a result, which is a violation of Section 393(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

According to this official document of the citation of Regina v. Marc Anthony Tacchi:

In 2012 and 2013, a company named Sensors Quality Management Inc. (“SQM”) operated a ‘mystery shopper’ quality control program through which they provided clients with evaluations of their goods and services from anonymous shoppers. SQM would offer selected shoppers with the opportunity to obtain partial or full refunds of the amounts paid for these services and goods in exchange for a completed written evaluation of the goods or services received.

One of SQM’s clients was Air Canada. Air Canada provided SQM with promotional codes to be used for the ‘mystery shopper’ program. These codes were not to be provided to the ‘mystery shoppers’. The mystery shoppers would book their flights through SQM and provide payment to SQM for the tickets. SQM would provide the mystery shopper with an itinerary along with other documents including a flight agreement obligating the mystery shopper to complete and return an evaluation. Upon receipt of full payment for the tickets and the completed flight agreement, SQM would obtain flight tickets from Air Canada for the mystery shopper using the promotion codes they had been supplied. The tickets would then be sent directly to the mystery shopper by Air Canada. Upon receipt of the mystery shopper’s completed evaluation form, SQM would refund 50% of the fare paid for the flight.

The Accused was able to obtain one of Air Canada’s promotion codes from Mr. Hunt who resided in Ontario. Mr. Hunt was described as an ‘SQM insider’. Instead of going through SQM, the Accused obtained first class air tickets by providing the promotion code he had obtained from Mr. Hunt directly to Air Canada. He was able to do this without making any payment to SQM, without entering into a flight agreement and without completing and returning any evaluation.

According to the court document, Tacchi not only reportedly used the free code to obtain a seat in the first class cabin on some flights; but also to help his friends book flights — and in one case, allegedly charged a friend identified as Mr. Howard $400.00 to do so.

Between Monday, March 18, 2013 and Monday, July 29, 2013, Tacchi fraudulently used the promotion code he had obtained to book four trips for himself and his family involving some 13 individual flight legs — the total value of which was $22,739.82. The total value of all the flights fraudulently obtained was $35,996.95. Tacchi was also able to obtain frequent flier loyalty program miles as a result of these fraudulently obtained flights, the total value of which is $554.33. The total loss claimed by Air Canada — as a result of flights fraudulently obtained by Tacchi — is $36,551.27.

In addition to the payment of restitution, Tacchi — who is known as FlyerTalk member mtacchi and is a citizen of Canada who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong — was also ordered by the judge to abide by probational conditions for six months and perform 20 hours of community service. He fortunately avoided what could have been a harsher sentence whose maximum is 14 years of incarceration.

The current status of mtacchi on FlyerTalk is that his posting privileges have been suspended; and he has not posted on FlyerTalk in almost seven years.

Summary

I personally have never met Marc Tacchi nor recall communicating with him through FlyerTalk; but his alleged actions are an example of attempting to “game” the system beyond what is acceptable — to the point of approaching criminal status.

This discussion posted on FlyerTalk is where I first found out about this case, which appears to be a classic example of greed on the part of a frequent traveler; and it is certainly not the first time this has occurred — or the last time, I suspect.

Maximizing the benefits within the terms and conditions of a frequent travel loyalty program is one thing; but devising a way to benefit from one through fraudulent methods is inexcusable and unacceptable — and can result in casting a negative pall amongst those of us in the frequent travel community who participate in those programs within their terms and conditions.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

28 thoughts on “FlyerTalk Member Ordered to Pay Air Canada $36,551.27 in Restitution After Pleading Guilty to Scam”

  1. popp9op says:

    Sounds like the scam One Mile at a Time pulled on United, and why he’s been banned by United.

  2. John says:

    I agree with Popp9op, Flyertalk venerates those those that have scammed the airlines. Boarding area hosts Ben who was banned from United for frankly criminal behavior that should have resulted in jail time. Now, he is on the lecture circuit.

    As a blogger on boarding area you benefit from the clicks that Ben brings in. You, Brian, can’t judge someone for ripping off an airline when you benefit from the exact same thing.

  3. Sean says:

    You’re a loser Brian. Boardingarea should remove ur lame site

  4. TPA Flyer says:

    What popp9op said. His Luck ran out.

  5. Ian says:

    It may seem like semantics to some however a permanently suspended member who hasn’t posted in 7 years is not really a Flyertalk member and needn’t be referred to as such. That is of course merely my humble opinion.

    1. GUWonder says:

      My suspicion is that most of the “permanently” suspended FT accounts of individuals with more than a couple or thousand posts have those same persons having an account under a different name on FT.

      Interestingly, the fact that FT has moderators that more or less editorialize the content in FT by way or their actions means that FT/IB is exposed to civil (and perhaps even criminal) liability (in some jurisdictions) for being content providers rather than merely communication channels. This means that suspending member accounts (and/or not suspending accounts) and deleting/editing posts (and/or not deleting/editing posts) opens up FT/IB to potential liability for content posted on FT that wouldn’t give rise to liability if not for the editorializing actions of FT’s moderators and others with a controlling influence on FT content. And in some cases that may mean joint and several liability, civil or criminal, for content posted on FT; and that may expose FT/IB management and moderators to being subject to potential civil action or even criminal prosecution in some jurisdictions.

  6. achalk says:

    “his alleged actions are an example of attempting to “game” the system beyond what is acceptable — to the point of approaching criminal status.”

    not ‘approaching criminal status’. Actual criminal status. Aren’t you astonished that he got off without serving time?

    “alleged actions:”. Nothing merely alleged. Proven — in a court of law.

    You seem to have a problem choosing exact language.

    1. JohnB says:

      Yeah but another Boarding Area blogger does a very similar action and the airline just bans him from Mileage Plus. If the guy was a popular blogger, he would not have even gone to court. I agree that he was “convicted” of a crime. But it is Brian Cohen on here, just being plain disingenuous. I was done with that other Boarding Area blogger, when I found out that most of his travel, of the last few years, was provided free by the travel suppliers. They make millions of dollars from our clicks and credit card apps, they should at least be honest about who is paying for their travel.

      1. Brian Cohen says:

        I absolutely agree with you that bloggers should be honest about who is paying for their travel, JohnB.

        I pay for most of my own travel; and on the rare occasion that my travel is paid by a different entity, I disclose it.

        I can also assure you that I do not “make millions of dollars from” your “clicks” and have never sold one single credit card application in the greater than 11 years I have written articles for The Gate.

        Finally, I only simply reported on the story itself. I did not bring up anything about any other blogger — nor do I benefit from any other blogger from BoardingArea with the exception of links which direct readers here.

        Perhaps I am not the one “being plain disingenuous” here…

  7. Mike says:

    If he simply refuses to pay, does he face the nightmarish prospect of being condemned to Canadian residency for life? There’s no constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment up in Canada that I know of..

  8. Georges Pharand says:

    popp9op and john, you are way off base guys. You cannot compare what Ben did with United and what Tacchi did, which was clearly fraud and theft. Which law exactly has Ben broken by booking flights on which he was more likely to get bumped. He was kicked out of United FFP and banned from flying with them, not because he committed any kind of fraud but because he stacked the odds in his favour. (But it’s OK for United to have their passengers dragged off planes when they have a proper ticket and a seat? Oh my heart bleeds for them.) It’s questionable whether they even had grounds to ban Ben. I’m sure United didn’t do too badly out of it, we don’t know how many flights he took where he didn’t get bumped. What he did is no different to card counting in a casino, which is why that is NOT illegal but merely against casino rules. In Atlantic City, the law forces casinos not to ban card counters who act alone. This is no different. So unless you can quote the law that Ben broke, maybe you should retract your statement that he’s guilty of criminal behaviour.

    However, I will say I agree with achalk. Brian, you need to choose your language more carefully. There is nothing alleged with what Tacchi did and it was not “approaching” criminal behaviour, it was criminal behaviour.

    And Mike, funny though that at the moment, it seems like thousands of Americans are desperate to move to Canada, certainly not the other way around. I had a green card 20 years ago, I cut it up and threw it back at them and I’ve never regretted it.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I was playing it too safe with the language, Georges Pharand.

      Thank you for taking the time to post your constructive thoughts.

    2. Sam says:

      You’re either a liar or a huge idiot. Ben wasn’t banned for trying to get bumped. He was banned for scamming United by reusing voucher codes that should only have been used once. It’s fraudulent behavior with an airline that had crappy IT (hey, just like this case!), not card counting. I think you should check your story before pointing fingers at people.

      1. Georges says:

        OK, it’s quite well documented in the press that he a) collected a bunch of $200 vouchers whenever he found something broken on a plane (so?) and b) amassed more than $10,000 in bumping vouchers by tracking flights that were more likely to be oversold. He bragged about it to the NY Times and as a result United banned him. (Rolling Stones article and many other references). I have yet to find any reference to re-using voucher codes, but by all means, please enlighten me with a link.

        1. Sam says:

          For sure. Let me point you to two links:
          https://www.reddit.com/r/churning/comments/3v4o05/ben_schlappig_onemileatatimecom_featured_on_cnn/

          Let me highlight the relevant parts for you:
          [–]throawaydev 4 points 2 years ago
          Actually wasn’t it something about reusing vouchers?
          [–]evargaLGB/LAX/SNA 5 points 2 years ago
          That’s what I’ve heard for years. Re-using the e-certs many times because United’s IT was, well, United’s IT. And he carefully worded it in the Rolling Stone article implying the ban was about complaining for e-certs, not the fraudulent use of e-certs.

          As I said, what’s documented in the press is what’s documented. Not what actually happened.

          Here’s the second link: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/external-miles-points-resources/1483373-one-mile-time-omaat-discussions-merged-17.html

          Please look at post #647:
          Well, he’s been accused of several things, ranging from the unethical to the fraudulent…

          2) He was also accused of excessively complaining to UA in order to get compensation vouchers. I’ll let others try to peg the ethics of this — although certainly you could argue that UA was willingly giving the comp and could/should have stopped giving vouchers for inoperative lights or tray tables at any point if they wanted to (much like DL/NW famously “fired” a frequent complaining customer). Who knows if UA even had the systems in place to track and monitor this kind of activity then.

          3) Then, most aggressive on his part was using those compensation vouchers multiple times, exploiting a UA IT glitch that did not immediately cancel the voucher upon use, allowing the value to be applied to multiple tickets if bought within minutes/hours of the initial redemption. This was done knowingly and willfully to exploit the IT glitch and to gain thousands of dollars of value that he was not entitled to. My understanding is that this is what led UA to finally cut him off, and what he tried to offer to repay them for.

          Anyways, I clearly am not going to change your mind, so by all means believe everything coming out of NYT is truth from god and that these are just two random internet commenters.

  9. achalk says:

    @Sam: “Ben was…banned for scamming United by reusing voucher codes that should only have been used once. ”

    Please upload proof. That is a major difference from him legally using publicly available information t o get bumped at United’s behest. The latter is ingenious. The former is criminal.

    1. Sam says:

      Let me point you to two links:
      https://www.reddit.com/r/churning/comments/3v4o05/ben_schlappig_onemileatatimecom_featured_on_cnn/

      Let me highlight the relevant parts for you:
      [–]throawaydev 4 points 2 years ago
      Actually wasn’t it something about reusing vouchers?
      [–]evargaLGB/LAX/SNA 5 points 2 years ago
      That’s what I’ve heard for years. Re-using the e-certs many times because United’s IT was, well, United’s IT. And he carefully worded it in the Rolling Stone article implying the ban was about complaining for e-certs, not the fraudulent use of e-certs.

      As I said, what’s documented in the press is what’s documented. Not what actually happened.

      Here’s the second link: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/external-miles-points-resources/1483373-one-mile-time-omaat-discussions-merged-17.html

      Please look at post #647:
      Well, he’s been accused of several things, ranging from the unethical to the fraudulent…

      2) He was also accused of excessively complaining to UA in order to get compensation vouchers. I’ll let others try to peg the ethics of this — although certainly you could argue that UA was willingly giving the comp and could/should have stopped giving vouchers for inoperative lights or tray tables at any point if they wanted to (much like DL/NW famously “fired” a frequent complaining customer). Who knows if UA even had the systems in place to track and monitor this kind of activity then.

      3) Then, most aggressive on his part was using those compensation vouchers multiple times, exploiting a UA IT glitch that did not immediately cancel the voucher upon use, allowing the value to be applied to multiple tickets if bought within minutes/hours of the initial redemption. This was done knowingly and willfully to exploit the IT glitch and to gain thousands of dollars of value that he was not entitled to. My understanding is that this is what led UA to finally cut him off, and what he tried to offer to repay them for.

      But to answer your statement – no, I don’t have a copy of the lawsuit or civil action he received. I’m not their legal counsel. If you don’t believe the multiple independent accounts of the reasons of Ben’s ban from UA, then ooh! You should write on Breitbart!

      1. achalk says:

        @Sam:
        1) The first link does not even refer to the issues surrounding fraud ;
        2) The second one is someone doing the same as you: referring to an alleged
        crime. Not providing proof. Here is the permalink, which you did not provide
        https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/25167624-post647.html

        So we are still waiting for you to provide evidence of a crime, not a ‘telling anecdote’. In the interim, your claims will be rejected.

        1. JohnB says:

          I think the suspension speaks plenty. The cause of the suspension may never be known. But United didn’t “allege”. They just banned him, plain and simple. United would not have done that if there was only a suspicion! He is a popular blogger and he was let off easy. Was it crime? Put it this way, if you or I did this, we would be in court facing a judge and jury.

  10. achalk says:

    @Sam: “You’re either a liar or a huge idiot.”

    Did you mean to say that? It’s tone makes you sound totally unprofessional.

    1. Sam says:

      I’m not your lawyer or your therapist, achalk.

      1. achalk says:

        From your tone, you may need one of each.

        In recognition of your personality, I will henceforth refer to you as @SonOfSam.

  11. Christine says:

    If you ever need a lawyer to edit your stuff, hit me up, Brian. “Alleged” is not necessary after a conviction and “approaching criminal status” is just plane silly. (SWIDT?)

  12. Georges says:

    @sam If you think I’m actually going to believe a bunch of gossipy, vindictive and small minded people chatting on Flyertalk and Reddit, then you’re sorely mistaken and you’re going to have to try harder than that. Sad little nobodies who have nothing better to do with their lives than sit around and spread rumours. “Well my understanding is blah blah….”, “Well I heard that he did blah blah…”. Come on, get real. We all know what this is really about. This may sound foreign to you but I believe in decent values of respecting others and not spreading lies about people. As a successful businessperson myself, I have a lot of respect for Ben, he deserves what he’s achieved and I also know that jealous little nobodies are always ready to throw mud at people like him just to deal with their own inadequacies. So in my book and in the book of most decent people, your so called “evidence” doesn’t stand up. So you can scream all you want and whatever you want, but Ben is not guilty of criminal behaviour. Saying so in writing, without evidence, is called libel. So before you call someone a liar, I suggest you take long hard look at yourself Mister.

    1. JohnB says:

      You are so far away from what this reality is! The guy was banned. He is a popular blogger and was let off because of being a popular blogger. Most airlines, instead of having negative publicity, just ban people. It is easier and cheaper than a lawsuit. But I bet if you or I did the same thing, that we would be in court facing a judge and jury. Your “holier than though” attitude is your problem. Don’t project that attitude on us!

      AND as far as people being trolls on here….expose yourself, tell us, who you really are?

  13. Georges says:

    Funny how the trolls go all quiet and move on once they’ve been exposed for what they really are!

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