Are Government Employees Scamming Frequent Flyer Miles?

politician handing out moneyFor the average American, it is often difficult to accumulate sizable credit card rewards in a timely manner. Spending enough to get a free airline ticket may take you a couple years. However if you’re a business and you funnel your purchases through a card, we all know how easy it is to rake up big rewards. The government is the biggest “business” out there, so who’s getting those credit card rewards? Or even if a credit card is not being used, who’s being awarded the frequent flyer miles on those purchases?

Is A Recent CNN Article Evidence of Fraud?
In November 2009, CNN ran an article titled World Is Small For Mileage Millionaires. It’s an article about – you guessed it – those whom rake up millions in frequent flyer miles and how they do so. While reading it, this is what really caught my eye…

For Charles Witt, the biggest perk of having accumulated millions of miles is being taken care of while globetrotting, he said. He also likes being able to splurge on travel for himself and his friends.

Witt, 41, who is a U.S. government employee in Washington and travels all over the world on business, gave himself a trip on the Concorde as a birthday present in 1994. He spent 240,000 miles for a special promotion that let him fly first class on a regular plane from Washington to London and return on the supersonic jet.

First of all, so I don’t get sued, I want to be very clear that the above information by itself does NOT mean there’s any fraudulent activity taking place. Obviously much more information would need to be gathered to make that determination.

Here’s My Concern
This is a government employee. The article says he “travels all over the world on business.” Reportedly, he’s accumulated millions of miles. If (and again, that’s an if) those miles are indeed earned through his work-related travel for the government, then why on earth does he “splurge on travel for himself and his friends” with the miles earned?

I mean, let’s be logical here. Whichever party is ultimately paying for the travel should also be the one reaping the rewards. If an employee travels frequently for their government job (and that’s being paid for by the government) then shouldn’t those miles go towards future work-related travel? To me, this doesn’t sound like work-related travel…

This Christmas, he’s planning a first-class trip with his girlfriend to Taipei, Taiwan, purchased with his miles. They’ll spend New Year’s in Tokyo, Japan.

If this first-class New Years extravaganza for him and his girlfriend is being purchased with miles earned through his job, then that is just plain wrong. It may not be illegal (I have no idea what the government’s official policy regarding such is) but I think most would agree it is morally wrong to say the least.

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Anyone who has a job where they are reimbursed for travel is able to accumulate miles in the same fashion. I have friends who work for a large accounting firm and they travel very often. They add their FF number to their reservation and pay with their personal FF credit card and then their company reimburses them for their expenses. A former girlfriends was senior financial analyst at a larger geothermal power company, same story. This man is doing the same thing. His only other option is to use a credit card without a rewards program, which is stupid. It happens to be a perk of his job and the required travel. There are plenty of careers out there that reimburse travel, so if you really want to rack up some miles you should consider a career change. I personally do not want to travel that much, so I dont earn a lot of miles annually, but that doesn’t make me jealous of people in situations where accumulating millions of miles is possible, good for them.

This needs to be investigated.

This sounds suspicious to say the least.

They need to make it a policy that all reward miles go to the government and not the person traveling. That’s called skimming off the top and it should be illegal!