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Justice News

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Former California News Helicopter Pilot Sentenced

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — John Michael Dial, 58, of Skaneateles, New York, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to two years in prison for 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 court documents:

  • 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.
  • Dial worked for an air ambulance service in Susanville and provided numerous false identification documents to his employer. From July 3, 2011, to November 7, 2011, he operated a helicopter approximately 63 times without having a valid pilot certificate.
  • On March 15, 2012, Dial was hired to work as a television news helicopter pilot in Sacramento. Dial used his real name but the FAA certificates he provided were fraudulent. He flew two times without having a valid pilot certificate.
  • Dial used the identity of a former co-worker to gain employment with an air ambulance service in New York, and he created a fraudulent United States passport using that person’s identity.

Dial’s identity theft became clear when he was stopped in Idaho for a traffic violation and produced falsified ID from Vermont. Dial pleaded guilty on July 31, 2014.

“The sentencing today of John Michael Dial for aggravated identity theft is a clear signal that the safety of the Nation’s air transportation system remains a high priority for both the Office of Inspector General and the Department of Transportation,” said William Swallow, DOT OIG regional Special Agent-In-Charge. “We will continue to work with our prosecutorial and law enforcement colleagues to prevent and detect violations of federal laws designed to ensure the safety of the public and the Nation’s transportation systems, and punish those who would seek to compromise that safety.”

“Dial stole identities, creating and forging numerous counterfeit documents to conceal his identity and criminal history as he moved from state to state to outrun his past. His crime presented a threat to public safety as his true identity and criminal history precluded him from obtaining access to aircraft and the certification necessary for employment as a commercial helicopter pilot,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica Miller of the FBI’s Sacramento field office. “Despite his efforts to evade law enforcement, Dial was pursued across numerous state lines and was ultimately apprehended in Skaneateles, New York.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Secret Service with the assistance of the Cascade, Idaho, and McCall, Idaho Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle Reardon and Andre Espinosa prosecuted the case.

Press Release Number: 
Docket #: 2:12-cr-441 MCE
Updated April 8, 2015