Former California News Helicopter Pilot Pleads Guilty To ID Theft
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — John Michael Dial, 58, of Skaneateles, New York, pleaded guilty today to aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, Dial used the names of actual persons to commit violations of federal law such as false statements to the FAA and forgery of a U.S. passport.
According to the plea agreement, from December 16, 2009, to August 4, 2010, Dial was hired as a television news helicopter pilot and operated news helicopters in the Bay Area without a pilot’s license. On one occasion, flight records from Dial’s employer show him operating a news helicopter in the Eastern District of California.
In June 2011, in order to work for an air ambulance service in Susanville, Dial provided numerous false identification documents and knowingly and willfully made material false statements about his true identity. These statements concerned matters within the jurisdiction of the FAA, and were relevant because they prevented the FAA from knowing the true identity of a pilot operating an aircraft within the United States. Had the FAA known Dial’s true identity, it would have known that Dial had previously been convicted of making false statements to the FAA regarding his medical certificate and student pilot certificate. From July 3, 2011, to November 7, 2011, Dial operated a helicopter approximately 63 times, without having a valid pilot certificate.
On March 15, 2012, Dial was hired under his real name to work as a television news helicopter pilot in Sacramento. Dial submitted a fraudulent FAA Temporary Airman Certificate under his real name, and an FAA Medical Second Class Certificate under his real name. Dial flew for the television station two times without having a valid pilot certificate.
According to the plea agreement, Dial used the identity of a former co-worker to gain employment with an air ambulance service in New York. Dial also created a fraudulent United States passport using that person’s identity.
On April 8, 2012, Dial was stopped by a Cascade, Idaho police officer and gave police a fraudulent Vermont driver’s license. He was cited for driving without a license and told to not drive his vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Dial was observed driving away from the scene. When Dial was stopped again, police learned that his true name was likely John M. Dial and that he had two outstanding felony warrants in the state of Washington.
During a Mirandized statement, Dial admitted that his name was John Michael Dial, and that he obtained the Vermont driver’s license approximately 12 years ago by providing fictitious information. He said that he did this in order to avoid apprehension for the two outstanding felony warrants. During a search of Dial’s vehicle, two wallets were located. In one wallet was information relating to John M. Dial, including a California driver’s license; in the other wallet were documents relating to the identity theft victim and second fraudulent Vermont driver’s license.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, the United States Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the Cascade, Idaho, and McCall, Idaho Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Reardon is prosecuting the case.
Dial is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. on August 14, 2014. Dial faces a mandatory statutory penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.