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Press Release

Convicted Felon Arrested For Avionics Equipment Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the return of an indictment charging Mario Mercier Hernandez (59, New Port Richey) with five counts of interstate transportation of stolen property. If convicted, Mercier faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison on each count. The indictment also notifies Mercier that the United States is seeking an order of forfeiture for proceeds obtained from the offense.

According to court documents, beginning around 2019, Mercier embarked on a string of thefts of avionics equipment from more than two dozen airports across the United States, including airports in Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina. Mercier entered each airport, broke into airplanes, and stole valuable electronics equipment from the planes. After each theft, Mercier transported the stolen equipment to the Middle District of Florida.

Mercier owned and operated JWG International and JWG Aviation in the Middle District of Florida. These companies purported to provide aid to impoverished children in Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine. Mercier used these companies to sell the stolen avionics equipment on various websites to unsuspecting purchasers around the United States.

Mercier’s thefts continued until May 23, 2024, when he was arrested while stealing equipment from aircraft at the Caldwell Executive Airport in Caldwell, Idaho. In 2008, Mercier was convicted for transportation of stolen property in the Middle District of Florida, relating to a similar scheme to steal and resell avionics equipment.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.          

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with valuable assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation Officer of Inspector General, St. Mary's Sheriff's Office (Lexington Park, Maryland), Canyon County Sheriff's Office and Caldwell Police Department (Caldwell, Idaho), Wilkes County Sheriff's Office (Wilkesboro, North Carolina), McClain County Sheriff's Office (Purcell, Oklahoma), Concord Police Department (Concord, North Carolina), Baxter County Sheriff’s Office (Mountain Home, Arkansas), Moore County Sheriff's Office (Carthage, North Carolina), Hillsborough Township Police Department (Hillsborough, New Jersey), Charleston County Aviation Authority Police Department (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina), Statesville Police Department (Statesville, North Carolina), Dorchester County Sheriff's Office (Summerville, South Carolina), Asheboro Police Department (Asheboro, North Carolina), Oconee County Sheriff's Office (Walhalla, South Carolina), Nashau Police Department (Nashau, New Hampshire), Citrus County Sherriff's Office (Inverness, Florida), Greenwood County Sheriff's Office (Greenwood, South Carolina), Lane County Sheriff's Office (Eugene, Oregon), Ontario County Sheriff's Office (Canandaigua, New York), Stow Police Department (Stow, Massachusetts), Burke County Sheriff's Office (Morganton, North Carolina), Iredell County Sheriff's Office (Mooresville, North Carolina), Charles County Sheriff's Office (Waldorf, Maryland), Thomasville Police Department (Thomasville, Georgia), Clarksville Police Department (Clarksville, Tennessee), Macon County Sheriff's Office (Franklin, North Carolina), Lincoln County Sheriff's Office (Lincolnton, North Carolina), McMinn County Sheriff's Office (Athens, Tennessee), Robertson County Sheriff's Office (Springfield, Tennessee), Lumberton Police Department (Lumberton, New Jersey), Bedminster Police Department (Bedminster, New Jersey), Spanish Fork Police Department (Spanish Fork, Utah), and Vancouver Police Department (Vancouver, Washington). It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lindsey Schmidt and Karyna Valdes.

Updated June 6, 2024