Ex-airline executive pleads guilty to stealing nearly $1M

September 5, 2019 GMT

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — A Maryland woman pleaded guilty Thursday to charges she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from an airline and a hospitality company that both employed her as a marketing executive.

Rebecca Jelfo, 47, of Silver Spring faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison following her guilty plea to one count of wire fraud, court records show. She is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10 at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Jelfo used false and inflated invoices from vendors for marketing services or products to defraud her former employers out of more than $855,000, according to a court filing. Jelfo used fraudulently obtained money to cover personal credit card debts and expenses, the filing says.


Court records describe Jelfo’s former employers as a global airline and a global hospitality company but don’t name them.

An attorney for Jelfo, Danny Onorato, didn’t immediately respond Thursday to an email seeking comment.

Jelfo served as head of marketing and communications for the airline from 2008 through 2015 and was a senior director of luxury brand marketing for the hospitality company between January 2016 and January 2018. Her duties at both companies included contracting with marketing vendors and approving invoices.

Jelfo caused the airline to remit more than $263,000 in overpayments and caused the hospitality company to remit more than $591,000 in overpayments, according to a court filing she signed.

“At both companies, Jelfo was entrusted with the ability to approve significant marketing expenses on behalf of her employer without any oversight,” the filing says. “Jelfo abused that position of trust in furtherance of her scheme.”

One vendor made payments totaling $41,000 to Jelfo’s credit card accounts with upscale department stores Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, the filing says. The same vendor purchased American Express gift cards that Jelfo used for personal expenses, including more than $7,000 for purchases at a high-end furniture store in Washington, D.C.

Jelfo intends to argue that she is entitled to a reduction in the sentencing guidelines because of her unspecified “mental and emotional condition that were present to an unusual degree and thus distinguish this case from the typical case,” according to her plea agreement with federal prosecutors.