- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

A Virginia travel company and its owner have been found guilty of wire and mail fraud for issuing $440,000 in heavily discounted, government-fare airline tickets to hundreds of travelers who were not government employees, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said yesterday.

Group Trips Unlimited Inc. and its president and owner, Judith L. Miller, each were found guilty Thursday by a federal jury on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.

The jury also returned guilty verdicts on five counts of impersonating a member of Congress in trying to conceal the fraud against United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways by forging the signatures of former U.S. Reps. Robert Livingston, Robert Smith, Frank Riggs and Sidney Yates on official travel-authorization documents.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee set sentencing for Aug. 9. Miller, who lives in McLean, faces five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The Arlington-based company faces a $500,000 fine.

Mr. McNulty said that between August 1998 and March 2000, Miller and her company used an airlines' computerized reservation system to provide tickets to clients for United, American and US Airways flights at government fares although the clients were not entitled to those fares.

He said that during the course of the scheme, each airline contacted Miller about the fares and Miller submitted official authorization forms issued by the House to justify the reduced fares.

On those forms, Mr. McNulty said, Miller forged the signatures of the congressmen. In response to efforts by US Airways to determine whether the correct fares had been charged, she not only claimed she had government forms for the travelers, but also told the airline her brother was a senator and would sue the airlines, he said.

Mr. McNulty said officials from the three airlines testified that Miller improperly gave their clients government-fare discounts, which were not available to other members of the flying public.

"The jury rightfully convicted someone who enriched herself at the expense of the airline industry and the traveling public. Ms. Miller stole from the airlines and forged the names of four congressmen as part of a scheme to misrepresent her clients as government employees eligible for reduced fares for official travel," Mr. McNulty said.

The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jack Hanly and Claudius Modesti of the Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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