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Wed, Jul 08, 2009

Guilty Plea In Charter Jet Fraud Case

Former Executive Faces A 5 Year Prison Sentence

Joseph Singh, a former executive with Platinum Jet Management in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from a 2005 accident in New Jersey.

Singh admitted hiring unqualified pilots to fly charters for Platinum.  The Associated Press reports one of those pilots was acting as Pilot in Command of a charter jet that aborted its take off, slamming into a warehouse at Teterboro Airport and injuring 20 passengers along with both pilots and two occupants of a vehicle on the ground, according to The Wall Street Journal.

An NTSB investigation showed that the pilot failed to enusure proper weight and balance on the aircraft prior to departure, and that the center of gravity was too far forward, causing it to not rotate at the proper speed. 

The New Jersey court documents indicate Singh and his co-defendants contracted with unqualified pilots and allowed them to fly Part 135 charters, and then conspired to conceal regulatory violations by falsely logging those flights as private Part 91 flights. Wire fraud occured when those documents were faxed across state lines. The Journal reports that Singh admitted in court that he dispatched the pilots on that plane knowing they were not qualified to fly it, and that he had done the same thing on other flights, while telling charter brokers Platinum complied with federal laws.

Four of Singh's co-defendants are also charged with falsifying weight and balance graphs to make it appear that the aircraft were within COG limits when in fact they were not, and again faxing those graphs over state lines.

Singh, one of six executives of Platinum indicted on charges of fraud and lying to federal investigators earlier this year, will be sentenced in October. He faces a maximum 5 year prison term plus a fine. Of the others charged, one pleaded guilty last month, and the others will go on trial in January.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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