Fraudulent British Helicopter Dealer sentenced
Affixed Data Plate to Remains of Aircraft
Caught in sting: jail time, $ penalty, supervision and deportation
The FAA has adopted a new Compliance Policy that imposes remedial actions in lieu of penalties, but that approach does not extend to intentional violations. Richard Paul Harper has plead guilty to a prison term, supervised release, a special assessment, and deportation of this British citizen. Parts Fraud and Suspected Unapproved Parts can be, but not here, difficult regulatory tests. It is recommended that QA, QC, inventory inspectors and related positions find subject matter expert training to assure that they have no gaps in their knowledge.
Mr. Harper’s beginnings were not inauspicious. His first enterprise was a haulage company in the 1980s. The Norwich, England entrepreneur founded the Apple International, Ltd. in Morningthorpe, near Norwich, and then he added a US Part 145 facility in Bristol, Tennessee. It is reported that a “love of flying helicopters saw him develop a business buying and selling Bell helicopters.” Back in 2012, Harper invested £500,000 converting former chicken sheds into an office and warehouse, with plans in the pipeline for a hangar facility.
The detailed allegations are recited by the US Attorney below.
Harper was arrested in Los Angeles on January 24, when he returned to the U.S. to attend Heli-Expo 2020.
On February 5, 2020, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, indicted Richard Harper for attempting aircraft parts fraud and wire fraud.
On February 6, 2020 Apple International, Ltd. was placed into administration under Mr. Richard Cacho of RMC Advisory, Ltd. (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Fraudulent use of data plates can be expected to result in catastrophic failure.
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – On June 16, 2020, Richard Paul Harper, 67, of Norwich, Great Britain, entered a guilty plea to one count of attempted aircraft parts fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville
On September 15, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced Richard Paul Harper, a citizen of the United Kingdom, to time served amounting to nearly 8 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment. In addition, he must surrender to an immigration official for deportation. Harper is the former owner and operator of Apple International, Inc., an aircraft repair station based in Bristol, Tennessee, and the United Kingdom.
Harper owned and controlled a business known as Apple Helicopter International, with offices in Great Britain and Bristol, Tennessee. At one time, Apple held a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, and was engaged internationally in purchasing, refurbishing, and selling used helicopters and helicopter parts.
As part of the written plea agreement, Harper admitted that he obtained a helicopter with significant damage to its underbelly. Instead of performing necessary, costly repairs, the fuselage of the helicopter was switched with the fuselage of another helicopter that had crashed in New Jersey, and the original data plates were affixed to the fuselage of that helicopter. This data plate switch caused the true history of the helicopter to be concealed. Harper, with intent to defraud, actively marketed and tried to sell the resulting helicopter with switched data plates to unsuspecting purchasers.
Ultimately, Harper attempted to sell the helicopter to an undercover agent posing as an aircraft broker. During the attempt, Harper concealed the true history of the aircraft and coordinated the provision of fraudulent maintenance records to the undercover agent. Following the filing of a criminal complaint and the issuance of an arrest warrant,
“Fraudulent activity of any kind is reprehensible and detrimental, but fraudulent activity of this kind that poses a particular danger to those who fly the aircraft and are on the ground is particularly egregious,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners in this case for bringing the perpetrator of this fraud to justice.”
“The plea agreement entered by Harper shows that intentionally concealing material facts about an aircraft used to verify the safety and airworthiness is unacceptable,” stated Todd Damiani, Regional Special Agent-In-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Together with our Federal and prosecutorial partners, we will continue working to preserve the highest levels of integrity and safety within the Nation’s aviation system.”
“Individuals who seek monetary gain through the fraudulent sale of faulty equipment place unsuspecting consumers at risk of serious injury or death,” said Jerry C. Templet Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Nashville. “Strong partnerships among federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies are critical to public safety both in the air and on the ground.”
The plea agreement is the result of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). with substantial assistance from FAA.
Mac D. Heavener, III, Assistant U.S. Attorney, represented the United States.
The FAA has taken a number of actions against SUP and Parts Fraud perpetrators.
BEWARE: even innocent errors can be found by investigators to be INTENTIONAL.
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