A former Cathay Pacific ground crew member and an Asia Miles customer service operator were jailed yesterday for defrauding the airline of 17 air tickets costing HK$139,000. Chief District Judge Barnabas Fung Wah ordered Elsa Choi Ka-ling, 35, and her boyfriend, Ng Man-lung, 34, to spend nine months each behind bars for the offence. The court heard that both Choi and Ng, who pleaded guilty on October 26 to one charge of conspiracy to defraud, were prepared to make full restitution to the airline. Explaining yesterday that he felt an immediate custodial sentence was necessary, Chief Judge Fung said the two had breached the trust their employers had placed in them and their criminal acts dented public confidence in Cathay's computer system. From April to October 2002, Choi was on the airline's ground crew at the airport and Ng worked in the customer service centre of Cathay Pacific Loyalty Programmes - the Asia Miles frequent flyer programme. The court was told that the pair conspired with Choi's friend, Lam Wei, who worked as an airfield officer for the Airport Authority, to defraud Cathay. Lam, still at large, allegedly provided information and instructions for Choi to set up and accumulate points on fake travel reward accounts. At various stages, Choi and Ng credited the bogus accounts with points generated from other genuine accounts or with fabricated mileage points. The 17 tickets obtained by the pair through redemption of the points were used for their own trips or for those of relatives, while some of the tickets were also sold to Ng's friends, the court heard. According to police, it took two years to gather evidence and retrieve computer records to ascertain that the 17 tickets had been fraudulently issued by the two. Early police investigations found that 85 tickets had allegedly been redeemed from 28 suspicious or false Asia Miles accounts believed to be controlled by the pair. The authorities eventually decided to seek prosecution over the 17 tickets issued from 15 bogus accounts.