A Miami couple and third accomplice have been sentenced to prison time and hit with stiff restitution fines for laundering money from an airport lounge at Miami International Airport.
It all took place at the Club America lounge in MIA’s Concourse F, a poorly-rated Priority Pass lounge that served as ground zero for family-run money-laundering operation. This is an airport-owned lounge, under a company called International Airport Management Inc.
The Miami Herald offers further details:
Former Club America account manager Elena Iglesias, and her contractor husband, Lazaro Iglesias, pleaded guilty to organized fraud, grand theft, and two counts of money laundering. After they surrender next month, they’ll each serve three years in prison and have to pay $2.6 million in restitution. Once out, they’ll be placed on 10 years of probation.
A third defendant, Malena Rodriguez, 50, a secretary who worked under Elena Iglesias, pleaded guilty to the same four charges and got nine months in jail. She’ll have to pay $355,705 in restitution.
How did this happen? This is a contract lounge that a handful of airlines use for premium class passengers. These airlines provide vouchers to passengers, which are surrendered when entering the lounge. The vouchers are then tallied and an invoice sent to the carriers. Carriers routinely pay by check, creating the opportunity for fraud.
Over the last several years, the Iglesias’ would skim about 20% of the checks and deposit them into their own business account, a company they created called IAMI Club Amer Inc. With a name so similar, banks readily agreed to cash the checks.
But with the fraud perpetrated so openly, the paper trail was clear and undeniable. No plea deal was offered. The Iglesias’ spent all the money, using it to pay off their mortgage, credit card bills, and car loans.
While I admire the tenacity of the operation, it never pays to steal. I hope the airport can retrieve all the stolen money.
image: Miami-Dade Corrections