Travel agent who is also TSA screener charged with scam; adults allegedly booked as infants

Friday, July 16th 2004, 9:29 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A travel agent who also is an airport screener has been charged with stealing more than $55,000 in a ticketing scheme by charging passengers adult fares but reporting them as lower infant prices and pocketing the difference, prosecutors said.

Laura Chico-Moreira, 37, allegedly operated the scheme while working as an independent travel agent for XLJE Tours. Chico-Moreira is also an agent for the federal Transportation Security Administration.

She was charged with grand larceny and falsifying the business records of Grupo Taca Airlines, which serves South and Central America, between December 2002 and June 2003, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday.

Brown said Chico-Moreira sold dozens of full-fare adult tickets to her customers but reported to the airline that the tickets had been booked for infants, defined as children under age 2.

Chico-Moreira also faces unemployment insurance fraud charges for allegedly receiving more than $4,400 in benefits while she was actually self-employed as a travel agent, Brown said.

The alleged scheme was uncovered when a passenger learned that her ticket had been booked for an infant and lodged a complaint, which prompted an audit, Brown said.

Chico-Moreira was arrested at LaGuardia Airport by New York City detectives. It wasn't immediately clear if she had retained a lawyer.

The district attorney's office could not immediately say Friday whether Chico-Moreira had been disciplined by the TSA.