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Continental pilot pension scam, nine disappointed pilots
Continental Airlines is looking to cash in on pilots who cashed in on a divorce scam. The pilots used sham divorces to divert more than $10 million to their ex-spouses. Post-divorce, the exes cashed in on retirement benefits, and the fliers could stay in the sky – and keep earning.
It's really pretty simple. A couple divorces. The pilot assigns all pension benefits to the ex-spouse. Then, the recipient goes to a state court and gets an order for a lump sum. After the divorce was final long enough for the money to start rolling in, these couples "reconciled." Yep, they remarried once the scam was complete.
So far, eight of the nine pilots are gone (either by quitting or being fired). One was rehired, because he promised to repay the cash. Apparently, he didn't do so fast enough and has been named as a defendant. The spouses are being pursued, as well. Seven of the alleged scammers are men, and two are women.
If you don't want to believe that greed is responsible for the situation, you can call what these pilots did a Darwinian play to protect their cash. The average pilot on Continental is eligible for a lump sum of up to $900,000 upon retirement. But, some airlines are terminating their pension programs and turning them over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which backstops pension plans up to an amount that's not even close to $900,000. Faced with the prospect of losing their pensions, therefore some are turning to (alleged) fraud.
In addition to the nine who got nailed, other pilots have tried and failed.