Real Life ‘Catch Me if You Can’ gets Caught

In another episode of life imitating art, this one will surely not disappoint.

It’s everyone’s dream to travel the world for free, and we here at No Mas Coach sure know how to try our very best to make that happen. Now, there seems to be some people who took that mantra to heart and decided to travel the world “for free*” (aka someone else is footing the bill).

Visual approximation of Martin Fumarola flying for free. Also, Aerolineas Argentinas Ad Campaign

Visual approximation of Martin Fumarola flying for free. Also, Aerolineas Argentinas Ad Campaign.

Martin Fumarola is an Argentine frequent traveler who lived in Cordoba (the country’s second largest city) and has a passion for travel. He seemed to, since 2008, also have a passion for defrauding state run Aerolineas Argentinas and scoring free tickets, according to a federal judge in Buenos Aires who indicted real life DiCaprio Fumarola.

According to a local newspaper, the first time he decided to reward himself with a free ticket on the Argentina airline was in October 2008, but soon after discovering that his master plan to cover the world worked, he booked himself in some other 6 trips. Then two more in 2009, seven in 2010, six in 2011 and eight in 2012 for a grand total of thirty tickets that amounted to a total of 30,359.58 Argentine pesos (approximately US$ 2000 in today’s exchange).

A plane worthy of Catch Me if You Can

A plane worthy of Catch Me if You Can

How did he manage to scam the airline out of 30 free trips? Well, he used other people’s credit cards, multiple email accounts, different phone numbers for each of these transactions while booking the tickets under his real name and ID number. To mitigate the risk of getting caught, he never booked round trips, booked late at night during weekends and would take the first flight out in the morning, which meant not enough time for the credit card owners to report any fraudulent activity on their accounts and have the charges reverted.

Fumarola’s system was working so well he managed to hit Platinum in Aerolineas Argentinas AR-Plus frequent flyer program, which equates to Elite Plus in SkyTeam and granted him international lounge access, SkyPriority, extra baggage allowance and more. Not bad at all. Plus all of the miles he collected for each of those flights he was in.

It looks like, after a while, even Aerolineas Argentinas could in fact catch him, after so many of these fraudulent charges ended up coming up with flights ticketed under his name and the company sued him and added him to the no-fly list. When Fumarola found out he was being sued, he -get this- showed up at the airline’s office and promised to settle his debt in exchange for being removed from the no-fly list, keeping his frequent flyer miles, and having the lawsuit against him dropped.

It turns out that was a con Aerolineas wasn’t gonna let fly. They went ahead with the lawsuit and as part of it, when the authorities searched his house, they found several credit cards, frequent flyer membership cards, credit card readers, fake IDs, his passport and other more than obviously incriminating evidence.  Fraud against public administration funds  carries a sentence of around 2 to 6 years in prison, and they have frozen 50,000 pesos of his assets.

Fun fact: His defense argued that Aerolineas Argentinas was negligent in continuing to sell him plane tickets for over four years before they realized of the fraudulent scheme and stopped him. I, for once, can’t but slightly agree with him. It took the airline FOUR YEARS to figure out the con, when it only takes ONE rejected transaction for a ticket in someone’s name to realize who’s making the unauthorized purchases.

I can’t wait for the movie version to come-oh wait… 🙂

Author: Ben Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. This guy had dozens of flights, platinum status, 4 years of free flights, false IDs, and dozens of stolen credit cards for the grand total of $2,000? That’s hysterical.

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    • Well… keep in mind Argentina devalued their currency rather recently, so that’s what the total amount in pesos amounts to today when you convert it. One US dollar = 15.2 Argentine pesos. In 2008 the exchange was at about 1 dollar to 3.8 pesos…

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  2. You do realize that “Catch Me if You Can” was based on a real person right?

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    • I’m very well aware, thanks!

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