Cops say woman ran travel voucher scam

A United Airlines employee, who lives in Riverside, has been charged with two counts of felony theft for allegedly selling victims thousands of dollars in airline travel vouchers and failing to make good on those purchases.

Riverside police arrested 42-year-old Patricia B. Chavez on Dec. 18 following an investigation that began in early November after a Chicago resident filed a complaint with Riverside police.

According to Riverside police, Chavez worked as a baggage handler for United Airlines at O’Hare Airport until she was sidelined in March by an injury, which she claimed was work-related.

The airline, however, was reviewing the case and was not paying Chavez while she was off work, according to police, which prompted her to seek legal advice. She reportedly contacted a Chicago law firm and befriended an employee there. Chavez reportedly told the law firm employee that she could sell her travel vouchers for trips anywhere in the U.S. at a discounted price.

Over the next several months, the employee reportedly purchased $16,000 in travel vouchers for the sum of $9,000. However, the employee never received the vouchers said police. They then learned that United Airlines employees aren’t allowed to re-sell the vouchers to non-family members.

Chavez reportedly used the money to pay bills, buy household items and make car payments. During the same time, police said, she also took trips to Hawaii and New Orleans.

Police also discovered that other people were suing Chavez, claiming she had perpetrated the same fraud against them. Between $16,000 and $18,000 was stolen from victims during the scam, according to Riverside police.

“We believe there are additional victims,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release. “If you have been the victim of a travel voucher scam involving Patricia Chavez, you should contact the Riverside Police Department.”

At a hearing at the Maybrook courthouse on Dec. 19, a judge set Chavez’s bond at $20,000. As of Friday, she remained in Cook County Jail awaiting a Dec. 23 court date.


A resident of the 3700 block of Harrison Avenue, Brookfield, contacted police on Dec. 16 to report his garage had been burglarized sometime between 6:40 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

The offender reportedly entered through an unlocked service door and removed a leafblower and snowblower.

On Dec. 19, a resident of the 3200 block of Park Avenue, Brookfield, reported to police that sometime in the past two weeks, an unknown person entered his apparently unlocked garage and removed a Ryobi leafblower, valued at $300.

 A resident of the 9400 block of Lincoln Avenue, Brookfield, reported on Dec. 18 that someone had entered her unlocked vehicle between Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 and removed a can of pepper spray and a GPS unit.  

Footprints lead to suspects

Three teenage boys — two 14-year-olds and a 17-year-old, all from Riverside — were charged on Dec. 19 with stealing UPS packages from the porch of a home in the 200 block of Herrick Road in Riverside.

According to police, the victim said he received a text message from UPS stating that his packages had been delivered at 11:45 a.m. When he arrived home about 12:30 p.m., the packages were gone, and the victim called the police.

But the victim also noticed in his driveway footprints in the snow. The victim and police followed the footprints to a residence in the 100 block of East Burlington Street, where police took the three boys into custody. The show impressions in the snow matched the shoes the boys were wearing, police said.

The boys later confessed to the theft of the packages, according to police. The stolen items reportedly were found in one boy’s backpack.

Um, you see …

A 23-year-old Brookfield man walked into the North Riverside police station on Dec. 16 at about 2 a.m. to see if police could help him out. The man told police he was hanging out with a friend in North Riverside and the two found a pair of handcuffs. The man said he agreed to let his friend put the handcuff on his right wrist to see if they worked.

The handcuffs did, indeed, work. The problem was the two did not possess a key to unlock them, prompting the trip to the police department. Police removed the handcuff from the man’s wrist and returned the item to him. 

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, Dec. 15-20, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.

—Compiled by Bob Uphues