Woman jailed over £52,000 British Airways lost baggage fraud

Charlotte Syers defrauded �52,000 from her employer, British Airways.
Charlotte Syers defrauded �52,000 from her employer, British Airways.

A woman has been jailed after stealing more than £52,000 from British Airways while working in their customer complaints call centre.

Charlotte Syers set up fake lost baggage claims from customers for missing luggage and paid the refunds into her own bank account - the same one which was receiving her wage of more than £20,000.

You couldn’t stop yourself, you began to be fuelled by personal greed.

Judge Edward Bindloss

The 27-year-old also took 40 fraudulent E-Vouchers for discounted flights, which are issued to customers if it is believed there is a genuine complaint, and sold them on eBay.

She spent the money on a holiday, an engagement party and other luxuries, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

The fraud only came to light when a customer mistakenly received an email relating to a refund or claim for lost baggage of more than £4,000.

Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said: “He had never made a claim for a refund, and while his baggage did go missing it was returned to his home address.

“He alerted British Airways not only to the fact it was fraudulent claim, but it was also someone from within the organisation because of the nature of the details.

“Her unique reference number was used in relation to that claim.

“There was a further 13 fraudulent claims in relation to missing baggage in which the money was put directly into her bank account - the same bank account she received her pay from British Airways.

“She copied and pasted the details, setting them up as genuine claims, asking for the money to be paid in her bank account.”

The court heard how she changed the address on one section, but failed to do it on another section and that’s why the customer was contacted directly.

Miss Dowling said: “She used the money to go on holiday and pay for an engagement party.

“She has used it for a more affluent lifestyle. She’s effectively trebled her salary during that time.”

The court heard how the fake claims were made over a period of a year between April 15, 2014, and April 13 this year, while she was working at the call centre in Newcastle.

The total amount Syers defrauded British Airways of is £52,678.81 - consisting of £24,778.81 in luggage claims and £27,900 in E-vouchers.

Syers, of Maple Park, Durham, admitted fraud by abuse of position.

Martin Towers, defending, told the court how Syers was a Durham University student but had to drop out after a year due to a muscular condition she suffers from.

He said: “She is a lady of previous good character. There’s no indication that she would do anything like this.

“She’s suffering from depression, but was not able to continue the medication, as it is making the muscular condition worse.

“She’s been very candid about what she did and why she did it.

“The report makes reference to the shame and remorse that she feels. She is set to pose a low risk of reoffending.

“She lost her job and she hopes to start a course at Newcastle College nextmonth.”

Judge Edward Bindloss told Syers: “You were in a position of trust. You were trusted to do your job honestly and accurately.

“You used the money to pay off financial commitments. You couldn’t stop yourself, you began to be fuelled by personal greed. You spent it on luxuries, an engagement party and holidays.

“Given the breach of trust here, this case is so serious only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified.”

Judge Bindloss sentenced Syers to 12 months in prison.