An Argentine man who famously traveled around the world for free for four years by allegedly conning major airlines is finally going before a judge.
Martin Fumarola, 49, lived like a real-life version of Leonardo Di Caprio in "Catch Me If You Can"…until catch him they could.
From 2008-2012, the software engineer reportedly booked 36 free trips on Argentina's state-run air carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, and helped himself to additional flights on Lufthansa, Air Canada and LAN, according to court records reviewed by the Spanish-language site INFOBAE. He was finally caught by Argentina's government-run airline and is now going to trial in Buenos Aires for “fraud affecting public finances.”
Prosecutors say Fumarola bought tickets on the Aerolineas Argentinas website using stolen credit card numbers, but always booked his flights under his real name.
Fumarola reportedly used a different credit card and different address for each purchase, and would only buy tickets online late at night on weekends, when nobody at the airline was monitoring the site.
Prosecutors say Fumarola also bought tickets on flights leaving the next day, so he would already be at his destination and out of the airport by the time the credit card owners reported strange activity on their accounts.
The scheme was so successful that Aerolineas gave Fumarola a frequent flyer Platinum Card to reward him for his “loyalty.”
The engineer reportedly visited Italy, Brazil, South Africa and Dubai on other people’s dime, though most of his trips were between his hometown of Cordoba and other destinations in Argentina.
Aerolineas eventually caught up with Fumarola in 2012 and banned him from flying on its planes. The fraudster reportedly approached the airline and offered to pay for his stolen trips, but asked to be taken off the no-fly list. He also asked the airline to let him keep his frequent flyer miles.
Aerolineas wasn't having it, and filed a lawsuit against the jet-setting fraudster. Fumarola could now face up to six years in prison if found guilty.
In a recent raid on Fumarola's home police found credit cards, hotel affiliation cards, and credit card charging equipment. He is currently free on bail, but could be permanently grounded.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.