Dad dubbed ‘Fraud of the Skies’ stole £25k from duty free with in-flight loophole

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Kieth James, 63, stole items including perfume, alcohol and cigarettes, in hundreds of transactions over three years and was dubbed the ‘Fraud of the Skies’

Kieth James, 63, stole items including perfume, alcohol and cigarettes, in hundreds of transactions over three years
Kieth James, 63, stole items including perfume, alcohol and cigarettes, in hundreds of transactions over three years

A dad who was nicknamed “Fraud of the Skies” stole £25,000 of duty-free goods over a series of flights between Manchester and his second home in Spain.

Kieth James, 63, stole items including perfume, alcohol and cigarettes, in hundreds of transactions over three years by taking advantage of a gap in banking security on flights over three years.

He was dubbed the “Fraud of the Skies” and it came to an end when he was arrested at Manchester Airport.

James, who believed he was terminally ill with bladder cancer, used bank cards with no credit facilities after realizing online transactions could only be processed after plans landed, a court heard.

Between May 2016 and April 2019 the married father-of-six would fill his bags with items from the duty-free trolley onboard then, after touching down at the airport, would make a quick getaway before the cabin crew downloaded passenger purchases, ManchesterEveningNews reports .







Kieth James, 63, was dubbed the ‘Fraud of the Skies’
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Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd.







Keith James used bank cards with no credit facilities in mid-flight to buy the goods
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Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd.

They would then find his transactions had been rejected due to “insufficient funds”.

At one point, Jet2 tried to ban the rogue customer from their flights, but he got around it by using his middle name on boarding passes.

James, from Wythenshawe, ignored legal letters demanding payment and even kept flying with the same operators but he was eventually arrested at Manchester Airport as he got off a flight from Spain.







James was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to wear an electronic tag for six months as part of a 7pm-7am curfew
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Image:

Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd.

He later admitted hundreds of illicit mid-flight transactions for pleasure claiming he wanted to ”get one over” on the banks claiming they were ”keeping customers in debt”.

He said he had gifted all the stolen items, which also included sunglasses and aftershave, to his family. The total amount of goods he stole was worth £25,556.40.

In a statement, James said: ”I’ve been an idiot haven’t I. But the diagnosis has taken its toll on me mentally and physically and I felt the radiotherapy and chemo had done me in and made me a bit bitter and twisted.

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”I was genuinely giving things away as it made people happy.

“Giving away a bottle of nice perfume was making me happy. I didn’t know how long I had left and I liked doing this. I realized it was wrong I shouldn’t be doing it. But at the time I was treating each day as my last and didn’t think of the consequences – I regret it now and haven’t done it since.”

Jet2 lost £12,459.50 during the racket while the now-shuttered Thomas Cook lost £13,100.19.

At Minshull Street Crown Court, James who is still undergoing twice-yearly treatment for his illness admitted eight charges of fraud by false representation and was given 12 months jail suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to wear an electronic tag for six months as part of a 7pm-7am curfew.

The thefts began after James, who divided his time between the UK and property in Tenerife where his wife lives, was diagnosed with cancer and told he was terminally ill.

Brett Wilson, prosecuting, said James would travel regularly to destinations in Europe and use a credit card with insufficient funds.

He added: “Whilst in mid-flight the terminal cannot connect to the bank for obvious reasons and it is only when the aircraft arrives at its destinations the crew plug in the payment machines and the bank does the transaction.”

Mr Wilson continued: “‘There was some planning and connivance behind this offending in working out that it would be very difficult for the airline to catch him. He’s deliberately targeted these airlines.

”These are not victimless crimes. People may think a big airline can simply absorb their losses but there’s an impact on all of us – raising airfares, airlines employ people locally they buy products and services and pay their taxes and shareholders.”

In mitigation, defense counsel Andy Evans said James was “living between two countries” as his wife was based in Spain and that the offending was something he did while travelling, adding: “His journeys were not deliberately set up to do this.

“He discovered this fraud by chance when he used a card with insufficient funds when on a flight- he should have ended it there but he didn’t.

”At the time he was potentially terminally ill and had a diagnosis of bladder cancer and with that preying on him and he made the decision to continue exploiting this gap in the security systems.

”His targets were the credit card companies, not the airlines. He viewed them as organizations with deep pockets who kept normal citizens in debt and he thought this was something he could do to give him pleasure and get one up on a larger system. It was one or two luxury items at a time then he would gift them to friends and family to lighten the mood of his diagnosis of him.

”This was not him attempting huge financial gain. It was something which presented an opportunity for him to bring some joy to his family in a bleak time in his life.

James was also ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work and was ordered to wear an electronic tag for six months as part of a 7pm-7am curfew.

Sentencing the judge Mr Recorder Nicholas Fewtrell told him: “You managed to successfully evade capture for some considerable time. Whilst I’ve listened with care to what has been said about you, the fact is these offenses cannot be tolerated.

James will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing in July.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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