United Airlines wants employees to keep an eye on one another, watching for situations that seems suspicious.
Ollantay Corujo is the perfect example. He may have looked like a uniformed United employee and produced a convincing story and ID badge, but thanks to the suspicions of a pair of skeptics, the elusive ex-United employee who had skimmed over $550K from his former company was finally apprehended.
While not as brilliant as Frank Abagnale, Jr. of Catch Me If You Can, Corujo was as smooth operator. United terminated him for unrelated fraud, but he held on to his uniform and ID badge. He’d show up in various airports served by United, log into the UA system, pull up a flight, and issue meal vouchers for everyone on it. These vouchers are typically valued at $20-30 each and are only valid for 24-48 hours. He would then redeem those vouchers through a food truck company that he conveniently owned.
When logging in, he did not use his own login credentials. Instead, he would use the credentials of an active employee. That’s part of what triggered the problem: United noticed that 1,000 vouchers had been issued by an employee over 1,000 miles miles away from his station. And the employee had not been anywhere close to that location!
I’m just speculating here, but imagine a scenario in which Corujo claims he is with United IT and cooks up a great story about needing to check a discrepancy in an employee’s account. He asks for login information to proceed and voila!
But what finally led to his demise was that his cover just didn’t pass the “smell test” at a small station in Peoria, Illinois. When local United employees noticed him logging into a United terminal, they asked him what he was doing. His story of being part of IT just didn’t make sense. It was late at night and no notice had been given. Airport police were notified, but Corujo had already fled the counters. Sheriffs found him and arrested him.
Corujo will serve 33 month in jail and must pay back United the entire $555K+ he stole from United.
In a note to employees, United stressed the importance of vigilance:
It’s incredibly important that all of us at United keep our eyes open and our antennae up for any situation that seems a little bit “off.” By doing just that, a few attentive employees at two different United stations ended an ongoing fraud scheme that had been costing United money, and they helped send the perpetrator to jail.
In other words, United wants employees to keep an eye on their uniformed brothers and sisters. Corujo’s story indeed illustrates how easy it is to abuse the system from the inside.
Corujo was turned in by employees at a small station. As View from the Wing notes, Corujo should have known that at small stations everyone knows everyone. Perhaps if he had operated only out of larger hubs, he would have still be skimming vouchers from United. In any case, United employees have been warned: keep your eyes open!