Banker charged in American Airlines scam Ex-aide to Nixon accused of $200,000-plus theft

February 15, 1992|By Jim Fuquay | Jim Fuquay,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A months-long dispute between a prominent Dallas banker and American Airlines has erupted into public view with the criminal indictment of William E. Gibson, former chief economist to RepublicBank Corp. and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Nixon administration.

Mr. Gibson, 47, a member of American's elite frequent-flier club, was charged this week with defrauding American of more than $200,000 in money and services with what American calls a sophisticated ticket scam.

He also was charged by a Dallas grand jury with one count of bank fraud, in which the government alleges he filed $43,000 in false expense reports to American Federal Bank FSB, where he was president from 1988 to 1990.

Mr. Gibson denies the allegations.

American says he operated outside the rules so often that on Aug. 7, 1991, it had him arrested at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as he tried to board an American Airlines flight. The indictment issued Wednesday lists 24 incidents of alleged fraud between July 7, 1989, and March 3, 1991.

Dave Schwarte, American's associate general counsel, called those incidents "only the tip of the iceberg." He said American believes Mr. Gibson used phony tickets "at least three or four times that" many times.

Mr. Gibson sued American Nov. 11 in Dallas state court, seeking damages of more than $3 million. In that suit, he charges that he was "wrongfully accused of improprieties" and stripped of 1.7 million miles of accumulated frequent-flier awards worth $80,000.

Mr. Gibson, who now has a bank consulting company, said that during his 10-year membership in American's AAdvantage program he racked up 3.3 million total miles of travel.

"I believe I will be completely vindicated when all the facts in this case are known," Mr. Gibson said.

A spokeswoman for American Federal declined to comment on Mr. Gibson's indictment.

In a Feb. 6 response to Gibson's lawsuit, American gave this version of Mr. Gibson's actions:

Mr. Gibson first purchased steeply discounted, restricted tickets on American, building an inventory of ticket stubs. When he was ready to make a trip, he would purchase a full-fare, unrestricted ticket, with which he also received a valid boarding pass.

"With those two tickets in hand, he detached the boarding pass from the valid full-fare ticket and attached it [the boarding pass] to the lapsed discount ticket," the suit claims. That combination would allow him to board his flight, after which he would return the full-fare ticket for a refund, American says.

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