Near Everest’s Slopes, a Helicopter Rescue Fraud Preys on Trekkers

Other versions of the deceit are more disturbing.

In 2016, Faina Gersh’s mountain flight back to Kathmandu was delayed by bad weather. Ms. Gersh, a trekker from California, was worried that she would miss her connecting flight to the United States. The owner of her trekking company came up with an alternative.

“They suggested that we say I was sick, like with food poisoning or an illness, so then my insurance would cover a helicopter,” said Ms. Gersh, 42, who had finished a trek to Base Camp. “I was like, ‘No, I’m not going to commit insurance fraud.’”

In the case of the Mr. Chang and Ms. Tjondro, the Australians whose guide had pushed an air evacuation in 2016 even though they were willing to walk down the mountain themselves, the insurance company they bought a policy from, World Nomads, said there were some clear irregularities.

Mr. Sylvester, the spokesman from World Nomads, said that their guide, without contacting the insurance company, had coordinated with the trekking company, Advanced Adventures, to send a helicopter from Flight Connection International, a company blacklisted by World Nomads, to pick up the trekkers in Lobuche, a small village about 16,000 feet above sea level and a day’s walk from Base Camp.

After arriving in Kathmandu, around 90 miles away, the two Australian trekkers were transported to Swacon International Hospital, a clinic for foreigners that is also on World Nomads’ blacklist, where Mr. Chang’s passport was taken, possibly “to prevent me from leaving too early,” he said.