A Hong Kong pilot has been given a conditional discharge and ordered by a B.C. provincial court judge to pay Air Canada $36,000 after fraudulently using an internal discount code to book flights for himself, family and friends.
In a decision posted online Wednesday, Marc Anthony Tacchi, a 42-year-old commercial pilot for Cathay Dragon Airlines pleaded guilty in December to fraudulently obtaining transportation.
The incidents date back to 2012 and 2013, when a company named Sensors Quality Management Inc. (SQM) operated a “mystery shopper” quality control program for various companies including Air Canada. The program involved asking selected shoppers to evaluate a purchased item or service, and in return obtain a partial or full refund.
According to the court documents, Air Canada provided SQM with promotional codes for 50 per cent off a flight. Those codes were not supposed to be provided directly to the customer evaluating the services, but instead used by SQM to refund the fare paid for the flight after the evaluation was complete.
That was when Tacchi, a Canadian citizen but a permanent resident of Hong Kong, obtained one of the insider promotion codes from an “SQM insider” by the name of Mr. Hunt, who resided in Ontario. Documents show he received a nine-month conditional sentence in an Ontario court.
Between March 18 and July 29, 2013, Tacchi used the insider promotion code to book four trips for him and his family and friends, bypassing the evaluation process and SQM altogether and using fake names and addresses. The flights, involving 13 individual flight legs, equated to a value of just more than $36,000.
In the decision, the judge said greed was the sole motivation for the fraudulent purchases, and that the amounts involved were “not insubstantial.”
However, the judge also noted there were plenty of mitigating factors. During the RCMP’s investigation, Tacchi appeared on wanted posters which were posted on social media websites. According to the defence, a Google search of his name will generate images of the poster and the damage to his reputation with endure on the internet “long after this case has been resolved.”
It’s also noted in the court documents that Tacchi is relied upon by multiple children from different marriages for financial support, as well as a street musician from Nepal named Suresh Gandhari. After befriending Gandhari while on a work assignment, Tacchi has since paid for his three children to attend school during the past four years.
Considering all factors, Tacchi was ordered to six months of probation with 20 hours of community service, and has paid back the $36,000 to Air Canada.