BEVERLY HILLS—On Wednesday, January 6, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced that a former Mesa Airlines employee, Hubbard Bell, 32, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to fraudulently obtain approximately 2,000 free flights for himself and others on Spirit Airlines and to manufacture counterfeit Mesa employee identification badges. He was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Spirit Airlines. Bell, who is the lead defendant in this case, pleaded guilty in September of 2020 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Bell worked at the Phoenix-based Mesa Airlines from June 2015 to October 2015. As a benefit of his employment, he was provided free access to Spirit Airlines tickets, a benefit he was permitted to use only while employed at Mesa. From February 2016 to November 2017, after Mesa Airlines terminated his employment, Bell conspired with others to sell stolen and unauthorized information of Mesa employees in order to book free flights on Spirit Airlines for themselves and others.
Despite the fact Mesa Airlines no longer employed him, Bell unlawfully used his Mesa employee information to book at least 34 free flights on Spirit Airlines, including into and out of Los Angeles International Airport. Bell also admitted he and other conspirators manufactured and sold fraudulent Mesa employee identification cards to be used by the fraudulent travelers.
Approximately 1,952 flights have been identified that were connected to this scheme. The court found the total loss to Spirit Airlines was approximately $150,000.
The other defendants in this case – Kamille Jemison, 28, of Beverly Hills; Alphonso Lloyd, 27, of Houston; Arnold Nichols, 32, of Houston; Femi Felix-Ukwu, 40, of Hartford, Connecticut; and Monique Ferguson, 32, of Houston – have all pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a superseding indictment returned in March of 2019. They are scheduled to go on trial on April 13.
This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Air Marshal Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Poonam G. Kumar of the Major Frauds Section and Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.