Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

The teenage ‘tycoon’ and his airline hoax

A teenager who conned British aviation bosses into believing he was a tycoon with designs on setting up his own airline will not face prosecution, police have said.

According to reports, the 17-year-old from York bluffed his way through meetings, created fictitious fellow executives of his “airline” and set up fake websites to bolster his story.

With an imaginative twist, he even made-up an American parent company which signed off emails with the tag “American Global Group, 35 Countries, 22 Languages, One Team.”

The hoax was uncovered by the industry magazine Airliner World and its freelance journalist Martin Foley.

Similarities have been drawn with the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr, who convinced Pan Am he was a pilot while he was just a teenager in the 1960s, and whose exploits featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, Catch Me if You Can.

The teenager, said to be autistic and with a huge knowledge of the intricacies of the air industry, operated under a pseudonym.

The scam ended at Southend Airport on Monday, where the youngster had apparently set up a meeting with an aircraft leasing firm, as he prepared to board a 93-seat plane his “company” wanted.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “As a result of information received from a member of the public on Saturday, July 11, Essex Police and security staff at Southend Airport refused a man access to the air-side section of the airport on Monday, July 13.

“No offences were committed and Essex Police is taking no further action.”

Airliner World first became aware of the teenager when he contacted the magazine with his ambitious plans to establish an airline in the Channel Islands.

Richard Maslen, Airliner World deputy editor, said: “I had some serious concerns over his story and after an initial investigation by the magazine we asked one of our freelance journalists, Martin Foley, to investigate this further on our behalf.

“Over the subsequent week, Martin and I worked closely to unravel this mysterious story and were able to disprove many of the claims that the firm was making.”

The magazine tipped off the police who intervened at the airport.

By then the boy had been in negotiations with the Guernsey government-owned airline Aurigny, among others.

Its commercial manager Malcolm Coupar told the Sunday Times: “Some of the things he said were the sort of things that were indicative that there might have been some substance to his claims.

“If they were real then there would have been opportunities for us to expand our business and that's not the sort of thing we are going to ignore.”

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