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Press Release

Orange County Pilot Charged with Flying Private Jet with Passengers Onboard without Having Proper License Issued by FAA

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

          LOS ANGELES – An Irvine man was arrested this morning on federal charges of illegally flying a twin-engine Falcon 10 turbojet airplane with passengers onboard without having a valid pilot’s license.

          Arnold Gerald Leto III, 36, was charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in United States District court with operating an aircraft in air transportation without a valid airman’s certificate.

          The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Leto’s pilot’s license was revoked earlier this year, he operated the Falcon without having the required co-pilot, and he was never certified to fly this type of aircraft.

          Leto is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony offense this afternoon in United States District Court.

          Leto is charged will illegally flying the Falcon 10 from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 8. Leto allegedly operated the aircraft with approximately eight passengers on board.

          “Federal regulations governing the operation of aircraft and other common carriers are designed to protect the traveling public,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The investigation into Mr. Leto shows that he flagrantly violated these rules – and continued to do so after the FAA took action to take him out of the air. A swift and thorough investigation by the Department of Transportation has now improved the safety of all air travelers.”

          According to the complaint, the aircraft that Leo piloted alone is a complex aircraft that requires two pilots to operate. Furthermore, Leto’s defendant’s pilot certificate – which he failed to surrender after it was revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration in January – did not have a turbojet-type rating that would authorize him to fly that airplane.

          A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The charge alleged in the complaint carries a statutory maximum penalty of three years federal prison.

          This case was investigated by the Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, with assistance by the Federal Aviation Administration.

          “This case that alleges operating an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate is a clear signal that those who would seek to circumvent or disregard transportation-related laws and regulations will face serious repercussions,” said William Swallow, regional Special Agent-In-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General. “Our agents will continue to work with federal, state, and local authorities to ensure safety for the traveling public.”

Updated April 27, 2016

Press Release Number: 16-088