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Stolen Plane? Good Ol' Detective Case Wraps Up Nice and Clean

Aircraft Owner's "Stolen" Plane Found Abandoned in Alleged Insurance Fraud

A Utah man's stolen 1970 Beechcraft was found in the backwater of Wells, Nevada, safe and sound - and netting him a 2nd-degree felony for insurance fraud in the process.

The aircraft had been reported by its owner as stolen in late June, with the owner reporting it was "missing from where he left it" according to charging documents. In late August, the owner filed a claim and moved on with life. The story didn't quite sit right with investigators, however. Airborne joyrides and thefts aren't too often quiet, sedate affairs, given the implicit career waste of ruining a pilot's license in the process. Curious, local police put out feelers in the local communities, asking airport regulars what they knew about the old Beech and whether someone would have taken it. 

Unsurprisingly, the 1970 Beechcraft (exact model not stated) had been for sale for some time, and was not too enticing to local buyers. They said that the owner had been trying to offload it for years, but it was quite old and in poor shape. Investigators began pivoting their efforts into the possibility that the aircraft had not actually been stolen, but was ferreted away by the owner himself to get rid of the fixed-wing albatross around his neck. One airport local, a student doing his PPL cross country flights, touched down in Wells, Nevada from Provo, Utah to find a familiar old tail number sitting abandoned in the tie-downs. He reported it and police got to work, finding the plane had been sitting there since early June, with Wells locals reporting nothing out of the ordinary save for the extended duration of its stay. Flight history showed some activity around a week before its estimated arrival in Wells, with nothing afterwards. The battery had been "seated in an unsafe manner," according to charging documents, "obviously done by the owner, not a thief."

The jig was up when the owner was alerted to the fact his plane had been found. He reportedly received the news with annoyance, and said he didn't know how his plane ended up in Wells. In deliciously classic columbo fashion, the detective replied that he'd never said where the plane was found. 

After the fact, the investigation revealed an embarrassing digital footprint for the 57-year old owner. Google searches for travel stops near Wells, Nevada, airport address searches, and wonderfully masterminded phrases like "how to disable GPS tracking on Android" and "Can my phone be tracked if location services are off?" in addition to a bevy of searches about insurance payouts. Not a great look to have that within a week of a "stolen plane".




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