Volunteers' Trip Financier Suspected of Fraud
News AnalysisReporter Vincent Quan discusses the newest developments in the investigation.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Category: News > University > Student Life
The man who said he would subsidize flights for more than 200 UC Berkeley students to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama in battleground states is being investigated by Minnesota police and the Airlines Reporting Corporation for credit card fraud.
In an e-mail dated Oct. 3, an American man in Italy who went by the name David Gall offered flights to students who wanted to campaign for Obama. The e-mail was sent to California delegate Dan Schneider, the leader of a group of 700 college students who signed up to volunteer.
To their chagrin, the members discovered last week that Gall never purchased the tickets and have since grown suspicious of him. But this is not the first time Gall's identity has come under scrutiny. Local Minnesota police have been investigating a man named David Gall for credit card fraud for the past six months.
City police launched an investigation after they received a report from a small travel agency in Savage, Minn., which stated that it had been defrauded by an agency subcontractor named David Gall, said Detective Laura Kvasnicka of Savage police.
Gall began working at the travel agency in January 2007 and said he was an American professor at a university in Italy, according to Kvasnicka.
Gall told the travel agency that he arranged hotel reservations, flights and bus tours for university students, Kvasnicka said. He received a monthly sales commission from the agency.
But the travel agency grew concerned in January 2008 after Gall started requesting a significantly greater amount of monthly sales commission than usual, Kvasnicka said.
A month later, Gall's credit card payments began to bounce back to the agency. Officials grew suspicious and eventually fired him, Kvasnicka said.
"Something eventually happened with that original credit card. It didn't go through, and this travel agency is charged back for it," she said. "It appeared that there was something criminal."
Kvasnicka added that this was not the first time in which a man named David Gall has posed as a subcontractor and used a fraudulent credit card.
Doug Nass, a fraud analyst at the Airlines Reporting Corporation, a data-analysis organization for airlines, said in an e-mail that the firm has been investigating a man named David Gall for credit card fraud. It hopes to turn the case over to federal authorities.
Gall is wanted for other financial crimes, Kvasnicka said. The Department of Corrections in Colorado-where Gall told Schneider he is from-has issued a warrant for Gall in relation to at least one felony parole violation unrelated to the incident with the student group, she said.
Because Gall lives in Italy, Kvasnicka said that Colorado authorities do not have the right to arrest him in a foreign country. She added that she does not know where exactly Gall is located.
"We have been in contact with authorities in Italy and yes, they have been cooperating with us in providing information or locations of David Gall," Kvasnicka said.
More than a week ago, Gall unsuccessfully applied to be an independent contractor for TravelQuest, a separate Minnesota travel agency. Jarret Zafran, president of the Harvard College Democrats, said he now believes that if Gall had gotten the job, he could have booked flights for the Obama volunteers and stole sales commission.
"He has 700 names and flights to book that he could use to parlay and try to scam another travel agency," he said.
While UC Berkeley campaigners still question Gall's identity, they are now focused on sending roughly 100 students to campaign in Las Vegas.
"Getting through what happened before, our main goal was to just get the volunteers who were still enthused about making a difference to a battleground state," said senior Niket Desai.
Vincent Quan is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]
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