PASCO -- A Southern California couple involved in a Craigslist scam buying airline tickets at a reduced price for strangers admitted Tuesday that they used a stolen credit card number to get boarding passes in the Tri-Cities.
Barry Steven Hammock Jr., 27, and Taylor Kai Lambert, 25, were turned away at the airport in Pasco when a Horizon Air agent recognized that the tickets were purchased fraudulently just hours before the scheduled flight, court documents said.
But the couple quickly bought two new tickets for an Allegiant Air flight to Los Angeles, departing around the same time June 26. Once they had passed through security at the Pasco airport, officers had probable cause to question the pair and search their carry-on bags, documents said.
That's when Franklin County sheriff's Deputy Marcus Conner discovered their complex scheme.
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Hammock of Compton pleaded guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to second-degree theft, a felony, and third-degree escape, a gross misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 35 days in jail with credit for already serving that time.
Lambert of North Hollywood pleaded guilty to second-degree theft and was sentenced to a month in jail.
According to the court documents, Conner was sent to the airport at 5:45 p.m. June 26 for reports from a Port of Pasco officer that a man and a woman attempted to board a Horizon Air flight with tickets bought with a stolen credit card.
Conner contacted Horizon's fraud assistance center and confirmed the purchase wasn't authorized by the card holder, who was an Illinois man who closed the account after learning of the illegal activity. The fraud center identified Hammock and Lambert as the two who used the card at 2:11 p.m. that same day for the tickets, which totaled $1,102 to Los Angeles.
Conner then spoke with the Horizon customer service agent, who helped the pair at the airport. "She advised that their boarding passes indicated the tickets were purchased fraudulently, and they were therefore denied access to the flight," documents said.
The agent watched them walk out of the airport. But in his investigation, Conner soon learned Allegiant had a plane headed to Los Angeles and was informed by the manager that Hammock and Lambert had bought tickets for that flight moments before. He told airport staff to notify a law enforcement officer if they saw the couple again.
Once the couple had gone through the Transportation Security Administration's screening area, Conner approached them and asked for identification.
Hammock showed a California identification card, and Lambert's driver's license was from Illinois. The two were taken into the airport police office and separated for questioning.
Hammock said he bought the Horizon Air tickets after finding an ad on Craigslist for reduced-price airline tickets, court documents said.
Hammock said he had replied to the posting by email.
He said he was told if he sent $500 through Western Union the tickets would be purchased and he would be given proof, but the transaction would be canceled if the money was not received.
Hammock could not say when this exchange happened or what Western Union he used, but claimed it had been a couple of days before even though Horizon Air, confirmed the tickets were bought that day, documents said.
Yet, Hammock was able to remember the email address for the online classified site's posting.
Hammock told the officer that after he was refused boarding at the airport, they left and went to the home of Lambert's friend. There, he gave the woman $500 in cash, and she got them two Allegiant tickets by charging a credit card, court documents said.
Hammock's bag had "papers that appeared to have credit card numbers and expiration dates on them," documents said.
As he was being arrested, Hammock took off running. He was chased for about 500 yards before officers caught him.
Conner then interviewed Lambert, who denied knowing where her airline ticket came from, saying Hammock handed it to her and she "stays out of those matters," court documents said.
Lambert had a Sony cellphone in her pocket and eventually gave police the phone number for it.
She claimed it belonged to her friend, but she added that she was the only one to use it.
A search of one of her bags turned up four boxes with new cellphones. She adamantly denied they were hers and told Conner that Hammock placed items in her bag without her knowing, documents said.
Conner, as a part of his investigation, searched Craigslist with Lambert's cellphone number and found a posting out of Los Angeles advertising that buyers could buy roundtrip flights from her, court documents said. He also discovered six ads in the Tri-City area for the sale of cellphones similar to the ones she had, documents said.
Lambert's number was listed as the method of contact, via text messages, in all of the postings.
Hammock's criminal history includes a felony conviction for second-degree burglary in Riverside, Calif. He also had an active felony warrant in California for burglary.
Lambert had no known criminal history, according to court records, but she told police that she was out on bond for felony theft in California.
Hammock agreed to forfeit his laptop and about $175 cash. Lambert will forfeit the cellphones.