Universal worker accused of scamming $26K in fake pass refunds

'Thomas confessed to giving refunds to a family friend in exchange for money.'

A Lakeland man is facing criminal charges after he issued about $26,000 in fake refunds on Universal theme park tickets while working in guest relations this year, authorities said.

Joshua Michael Thomas, 23, of Lakeland, was arrested last month and is charged with two felonies for grand theft and for engaging in a scheme to defraud between $20,000 and $50,000, according to court records.

Universal noticed something was wrong after there was a pattern of several large refunds going back onto the same credit cards from June through November, the Orlando Police arrest affidavit said.

One Universal employee handled all the transactions: Thomas.

Thomas, who spoke to Orlando Police, described how the scheme worked.

Thomas told authorities that a family friend gave him random park tickets to return. The arrest affidavit doesn’t say how the family friend obtained the tickets. Then Thomas issued refunds back onto the friend’s credit cards, and in return, she gave him $10,000 and kept the rest for herself.

“Thomas confessed to giving refunds to a family friend in exchange for money,” the arrest affidavit said. “Thomas was just trying to help out a friend whose mother was ill.”

The affidavit also said, “Thomas stated that he understood his rights and did not request the presence of a lawyer during questioning.”

Thomas could not be reached for comment Friday. He did not have an attorney listed on court records.

Universal, which wanted to prosecute Thomas, confirmed Monday that Thomas is no longer employed at Universal.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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