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Mon, Jan 10, 2022

Instagram CFI Defrauds Students

Non-Pilot Indicted for Offering Instruction Without CFI Rating

The first prosecution of an airman operating without a certificate has been filed, with the filing of indictments for wire fraud and uncertificated airmanship.

Matthew Jones of Spanish Fork, Utah, is accused of falsely presenting himself as the owner and operator of Noctem Aviation and a Certified Flight Instructor for fixed and rotary wing aircraft. 

Jones stands accused of defrauding prospective students by presenting himself through text messages and Instagram posts to be a capable and legal instructor for the purposes of obtaining funding for his daily living expenses. The indictment describes Jones establishing a contract to instruct a student in pursuit of a pilot rating, which led to the creation of a joint bank account to be used for flight training expenses. Jones is accused of stealing $9,958 from this would-be student throughout a 2-week span, paying for bills, rent, personal purchases, and cash withdrawals. 

The case is a reminder for aviators and students to thoroughly vet their hired professionals before granting access to large sums of money.

The postings said to have been made advertising Noctem Aviation and Jones' services began in June 2019 on Instagram, where he appears to have solicited a student after making contact with them. Texts providing false documentation as a commercial CFI were sent soon after, and the following year saw additional falsification claiming non-commercial CFI status. It is unclear exactly how many students were acquired through these means, but only one seems to have been taken for a considerable sum. The charges for fraud and operating as an airman without the appropriate certificate could result in forfeiture of money or property belonging to Jones should he be found guilty. 

FMI: www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/38637

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