Four Executives of Guam Based Hansen Helicopters Charged in Alleged Conspiracy to Defraud the FAA and Related Charges
Case involves death of Pilot
Horrible Fraud Facts Alleged
Bad Paperwork vs. Good Records = INTENT
FBI Press Release
Defendants Used Aircraft That Had Not Received Required Safety Inspections and Legitimate Airworthiness Certificates to Generate Income
“HAGATNA—John Darrell Walker (a.k.a. Jon Walker), Marvin R. Reed, Kenneth Rufus Crowe, and Phillip Turner Kapp were arrested on May 31, 2018, as a result of a federal indictment charging them with knowingly and willfully conspiring a scheme for Hansen Helicopters, Inc., to utilize and lease unsafe aircraft that did not comply with U.S. safety aviation regulations.
A federal grand jury returned a twenty-three-count indictment against the Hansen employees. The indictment charges conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); honest services fraud; wire fraud; money laundering; destruction, alteration, or falsification of records; attempted destruction of an aircraft; and false statements.
On March 28, 2018, FAA safety inspector Timothy J. Cislo pleaded guilty in District Court of Guam to three counts of honest services wire fraud involving Hansen. Cislo issued airworthiness certificates to Hansen without inspecting the helicopters in exchange for an airplane for his personal use.
“This investigation targeted a bribery and fraud scheme between a private business and a public government official who was entrusted with oversight of aviation safety,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Kaul. “When private companies place higher value on profits over public safety, innocent lives are put in danger. The FBI will continue to prioritize corruption investigations and hold accountable all those who betray the public’s best interest and trust.”
The owner of Hansen Helicopters, John Darrell Walker resides in Missouri and was arrested there.
Reed, Crowe, and Kapp were arrested in Harmon, Guam.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and Guam Customs and Quarantine.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and Walker, Reed, Crowe, and Kapp are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.”
A federal grand jury returned a 23-count indictment against them. The indictment charges:
- conspiracy to defraud the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board;
- honest services fraud;
- wire fraud;
- money laundering;
- destruction, alteration or falsification of records;
- attempted destruction of an aircraft; and false statements.
This case, as it applied to an FAA inspector for issuing airworthiness certificates without inspecting the Hansen helicopters in exchange for the plane (see cover collage), was cited with a number of other recent criminal cases as an indication that ENFORCEMENT is still being pursued in cases meriting such action.
The reports of the indictment of the four Hansen executives made it clearer how egregious the consequences of this conspiracy were:
A Hansen aircraft bearing the tail number N9068F crashed on Sept. 2, 2015, killing pilot Rafael Antonio Cruz Santos, the indictment states.
As reported by the local press, the problems appear to be more malevolent than bad paperwork or an inadvertent error:
About five days after the crash, Kapp went to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to get records for the aircraft, Documents states. He made entries into the records that indicated he had performed inspections and maintenance on the aircraft when he hadn’t, according to the indictment.
Kapp gave the falsified logbook entries for the downed aircraft to Crowe, who then submitted the logbook to the FAA on Sept. 12, 2015, documents state. Crowe in 2016 told the FAA that that the aircraft’s registration and airworthiness certificate were lost, but he actually had both documents, the indictment states.
The defendants are accused of getting scrapped, destroyed or otherwise not airworthy aircraft, then falsifying records submitted to the government so they can get certified, according to the indictment.
Non-Federal Aviation Administration certified parts were installed in Hansen aircraft, false logbooks were created, and data plates were switched between aircraft to hide an aircraft’s background and maintenance history, according to court documents.
In a separate incident, Crowe in March 2017 is accused of submitting forms to federal authorities in which he stated a pilot and spotter suffered minor injuries and there was no damage to the aircraft involved in an accident, according to the indictment.
“In fact, Crowe then and there knew, the pilot and spotter sustained serious injuries and aircraft N805LA sustained significant damage,” court documents state.
Crowe in February 2017 ordered that the aircraft with the registration number N805LA be allowed to sink into the ocean after it crashed, documents state.
The indictment also states that Crowe told the FAA that an aircraft had been exported to the Philippines, when it had not.
For one helicopter, identified as N243D, Kapp is accused of indicating the aircraft completed an inspection that wasn’t done and Crowe gave the FAA a document that said the same aircraft was erroneously reported as destroyed, according to court papers. Crowe also submitted photographs of a different helicopter and misrepresented it as N243D, documents state.
Hansen Helicopters Inc. had received airworthiness certifications for 10 aircraft that were never inspected. The fleet included four helicopters severely damaged in previous accidents, one considered broken “beyond repair,” and two obtained from “a pile of scrap in Alaska,” according to a new court complaint. [ source ]
The US Attorney has taken unusual measures to assure that the defendants are not able to continue this alleged pattern of criminally unsafe practices.
The federal government is seeking to forfeit $4.7 million worth of corporate funds seized from Hansen Helicopters and its subsidiaries following a wire fraud and money laundering investigation that later led to the conviction of Timothy Cislo, former safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Subject to forfeiture included Hansen’s $25,883.33 bank account and Caledonia Agency Inc.s’ $649,208.25, both with Bank of Hawaii in Hagatna; Walker Agricola LLC’s $1,043,262.16 with Community Bank and Trust in Neosho, Missouri; and $2.9 million in brokerage funds from the National Financial Services in Boston, Massachusetts in the name of John D. Walker.…
FBI agents seized helicopters and other company properties during a raid on Hansen’s compound in Harmon on Oct. 26, 2016. The raid also yielded “electronic evidence” that showed email threads between Cislo and Hansen manager Kenneth Rufus Crowe discussing the purchase and wire transfer for the Taylorcraft.
In that one of the aircraft alleged to be part of this criminal activity, N9068F, crashed on Sept. 2, 2015 and the pilot Rafael Antonio Cruz Santos died, 18 USC §38 (b)(2) might have been invoked. The underlying offense is found at 18 USC §38 (a):
Offenses.—Whoever, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly and with the intent to defraud—
One of the punishments available under this statute includes life imprisonment; however, to invoke this sanction, the US Attorney must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
Because the aircraft at issue is at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (the NTSB was unable to find probable cause), the casual nexus between the fraudulent record and the death could not be proved.
The facts of this case define, hopefully, the nadir of behavior. It should reinforce for everyone the importance of attention to detail when dealing with aircraft records. The FAA says that inadvertent errors will likely result in treatment under the Compliance Philosophy, BBBBUUUTTT your average, ordinary Aviation Safety Inspector may not infer that your entry was an accident (believes in the “highest level of safety” standard as an absolute). The consequences of such a determination is heavy and if a flawed record is involved in a fatal accident, the likelihood of finding blame increases.
The point is WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF A LIFE SENTENCE, extreme care in filling out those records MAKES IMMENSE SENSE.
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