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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

Monday, October 24, 2016

Orange County Man Pleads Guilty to Flying Private Jet with Passengers Onboard Without Having Properly Issued FAA License

          LOS ANGELES – An Irvine man pleaded guilty today in federal court to charges of illegally flying on two separate occasions turbo-jet powered aircraft with passengers onboard without having a valid license.

          Arnold Gerald Leto III, 36, pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment that charged Leto with violations of a federal statute that prohibits the knowing piloting of an aircraft without having the requisite “airman certificate.”

          According to his plea agreement, in January 2015, Leto piloted a Cessna Citation aircraft from Santa Monica to Phoenix, and, in April 2016, Leto piloted a Falcon 10 turbo-jet aircraft from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas. On both of those occasions, Leto piloted the aircraft with passengers onboard knowing that he did not have the requisite airman certificate to pilot that aircraft.

          “Federal laws regarding the operation of passenger aircraft protect the public,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate that the defendant willfully disregarded the rules and regulations of the FAA and operated jet aircraft, thereby endangering the passengers on board and the safety of the communities of Santa Monica, Van Nuys, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and everywhere in between.”

          Earlier this year, the FAA, after finding various violations of Federal aviation regulations, revoked all of Leto’s airman certificates.

          “As evidenced by the guilty plea entered into today by Mr. Arnold Leto related to operating an aircraft without an airman’s certificate, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the safety of the nation’s air transportation system,” said William Swallow, DOT OIG regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Working with the Federal Aviation Administration and our prosecutorial partners, we will continue to prevent and detect violations of federal laws and regulations designed to ensure public safety, and punish those who would seek to compromise that safety.”

          Sentencing is set before United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer on February 6, 2017. At that time Leto faces a statutory maximum sentence of six years in federal prison.

          This case was investigated by the Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, with assistance by the Federal Aviation Administration. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Dennis Mitchell of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.

Press Release Number: 
Updated October 25, 2016