AOH :: ISN-1738.HTM

Points scammer felt like family failure

Points scammer felt like family failure
Points scammer felt like family failure 

By Daniella Miletic
November 24, 2005

Personal pride, skill and a tall shadow cast by his successful father,
led Austin Nicholas Perrott to the centre of a sophisticated scam in
which he amassed more than 17.6 million frequent-flyer points without
getting on a plane - a role he was jailed for yesterday.

Perrott, portrayed by his lawyer as a man who did not scheme for
riches but wanted to maintain the appearance of moderate prosperity,
was jailed yesterday for his deception.

Growing up in a home that set a high "standard of success", he had a
strained relationship with his father - leading architect, Les
Perrott, whose involvement in the designs of the Rialto, the Hilton
Hotel and the former Gas and Fuel towers helped shape Melbourne's city

When his siblings, too, became highly successful, Perrott believed he
was a failure by comparison.

The County Court heard it was with a mixture of pride, skill and
distraction (his wife's illness) that Perrott began to capitalise on a
loophole he discovered in Qantas' mainframe computer.

Perrott was working as a customer services supervisor with Singapore
Airlines when he stumbled on an "irregularity" in the computer system.

He found that passenger lists for flights that had departed and landed
remained "active" and that he could add names to those lists.

Friends at Qantas gave Perrott the regularly changing passwords to the
airline's system.

In February 1996, with more than 15 years' experience in the airline
industry, Perrott embarked on a 61/2-year scam that accrued 17.6
million frequent flyer points from nine airlines, including Qantas,
British Airways and American Airlines. Only 4.3 million points were

Perrott used the points for accommodation on a trip to the US with his
wife and his three children, as well as on domestic flights.  
Unsuspecting family and friends also paid him for air tickets.

While discrepancies between points and dollar values across the
airlines make it difficult to get a precise sum for Perrott's fraud,
the court was told the amount Perrott gained was less than $85,000.

It was money used to keep their Balwyn home and their daughter in
private school.

In November 2002, Qantas updated its computer system, inadvertently
fixing the loophole.

The same month, an internal investigation by Air New Zealand, which
found Perrott was a Gold Elite member, revealed his "extraordinarily
large amounts of points" were accrued through a terminal at Melbourne.  
The Victoria Police fraud investigation division was called in.

Perrott's father died shortly afterwards.

Perrott, of Middle Park, had pleaded guilty to nine counts of
obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Judge Roy Punshon sentenced him to two years and eight months' jail,
with two years and two months suspended for two years. Perrott will
serve six months in prison.

Judge Punshon said he took into account Perrott had suffered
considerable shame and he had lost his career.

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