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Wed, Mar 13, 2024

Another Aircraft Parts Bust Leads To Guilty Plea

Two Florida Residents Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Sell and Export Aircraft Parts with Counterfeit Airworthiness Approval Tags

The US Atty tells ANN that on March 6, Daniel Navarro, 50, of Miami Lakes, Florida, the former Vice President of, Sofly Aviation Services (Sofly), an aviation parts distribution company, and Jorge Guerrero, 71, of Hialeah, Florida, a Procurement & Asset Management Specialist for Sofly, both pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. 

“The prosecutors in our office, alongside our Department of Defense and Department of Transportation partners, are committed to protecting foreign and domestic airlines from people peddling aircraft parts that they falsely and dangerously claim to be airworthy,” stated U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida.  “Everyone must comply with established regulations in order to protect travelers and preserve aviation safety.”

According to court records, beginning in 2012 and continuing into 2019, Navarro and Guerrero purchased “as removed” aircraft parts and resold them using certificates that falsely claimed the parts to be airworthy under the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The fraudulent approval tags represented those “as removed” parts to be overhauled, tested/inspected or repaired, which misled their buyers into believing them to be airworthy. Most often, Navarro and Guerrero would use an FAA approved repair station’s FAA certificate number to falsely certify the part to have been overhauled, tested/inspected or repaired by that repair station, when in fact they never were. According to the court documents, those parts were sold to Canadian airlines and a U.S. Department of Defense contractor.

“Falsifying the airworthiness of aircraft parts poses a significant danger to the public and our service members,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Darrin K. Jones, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Southeast Field Office. “These guilty pleas demonstrate our commitment to root out corruption and bringing to justice those who compromise the safety and readiness of aircraft for personal gain.”

“The guilty pleas in this investigation should send a clear signal that nefarious schemes that comprise the integrity of the aviation industry’s supply chain for commercial and military aircraft will not be tolerated,” said Joseph Harris, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG), Southern Region. “We will continue working with our federal, law enforcement, and prosecutorial partners to disrupt fraudulent activities that adversely impact aviation safety.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Navarro and Guerrero on May 23 before U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno. Navarro and Guerrero each face a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years, for the offense of conviction. The court may also impose a fine of up to $250,000 and must order restitution. As part of the plea agreement, Navarro and Guerrero agreed to voluntarily forfeit any property acquired as a result of the offense. The judge will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

DOT OIG conducted this investigation jointly with DCIS and with assistance from the FAA.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Keller is prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Klco is handling asset forfeiture.

FMI: www.flsd.uscourts.gov, http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov (Case No. 23-CR-20416)

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