Two men who conspired to put an airplane with rusted and corroded parts into the sky were placed on probation Tuesday for falsifying documents to make sure the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t know about the scheme they hatched at the Lantana airport.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg sentenced the mastermind of the plan, pilot Ulipiano Luis Amy, 63, to six months of house arrest in addition to three years of probation. Formerly of Miami Springs, Amy is now caring for his elderly parents in Puerto Rico and will serve his house arrest there.
James Schiller, who operated Palm Beach Aviation Services out of Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lantana, was placed on probation for two years. Schiller, 53, who lives in Lake Worth, will lose his FAA certification as an aircraft mechanic.
Amy had already been grounded for health reasons but Rosenberg ordered the permanent revocation of his pilot license.
The sentencing comes two weeks after Robert Charles “Chas” Brady, the owner of Beach Aviation Services, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to four charges in connection with an illegal charter service and flight school he operated out of the Boca Raton Airport and Pompano Beach Airpark.
While Brady’s pilot license was revoked in 2016, the 36-year-old Fort Lauderdale man continued to give flying lessons and manned the controls of numerous charter flights, FAA officials said. Many student pilots learned that FAA will not honor the training hours they received at his flight school.
Brady faces a possible 20-year prison term when he is sentenced on May 16 on charges of wire fraud, falsifying records and two counts of operating an aircraft without an airmen’s certificate. About 10 years ago, Brady served a 17-month state prison sentence for defrauding people while masquerading as a Harvard-educated lawyer.
Amy pleaded guilty in December to charges of conspiracy to commit aircraft parts fraud and registration violations involving aircraft. Schiller pleaded guilty only to the conspiracy charge.
The scheme began in 2012 when Amy agreed to pay Schiller $10,000 to install propellers and engines that were salvaged from an aircraft that crashed in the Dominican Republic, a federal prosecutor said. As part of the deal, Schiller sold Amy the fuselage of a Areo Commander 500 plane that had been scrapped by its former owner due to severe corrosion.
Amy paid Schiller about half of the promised amount and then flew the plane to the North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines and then to the Miami Executive Airport to escape detection, said U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller, who is no relation to James Schiller.
For about four years, Amy submitted phony documents to FAA officials to hide the history of the plane. The investigation began when the propellers of the plane hit the tarmac at the Miami airport when the landing gear collapsed. No one was injured.
Amy faced a maximum 18-month prison sentence, and prosecutor Schiller pushed Rosenberg to put Amy behind bars. The judge spurned the request, saying the chances that Amy would commit another similar offense were slim given that he no longer has a pilot license.
The plane, long deemed “unairworthy” by FAA officials, will be donated to George T. Baker Aviation School, where students at the Miami public vocational school can work on it, prosecutor Schiller said.