SANTA MONICA—A 36-year-old Orange County man and experienced pilot was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 26 after being charged with two counts of operating an aircraft without a valid pilot’s license.
Arnold Gerald Leto III, president of the Irvine-based Aviation Financial Services Inc., was accused by the Federal Aviation Administration of flying a Cessna Citation turbojet aircraft from Santa Monica to Phoenix, Arizona on January 30, 2015 and recently, flying a Falcon 10 turbojet aircraft from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas on April 8, 2016, with eight passengers aboard.
Leto’s pilot’s license was revoked in January by the FAA. Specifics regarding the revocation have not been disclosed.
The Falcon 10 turbojet, which Leto piloted alone, is a complex aircraft and requires two rated and trained pilots to operate it, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Leto is believed to have piloted the Falcon with eight others on board.
“The FAA requires pilots to be rated and trained for [Falcon 10],” stated Federal Prosecutor Mark Williams when Leto was charged in April. “He was taking a large amount of passengers and charging significant amounts of money to do so,” he added.
“Federal regulations governing the operation of aircraft and other common carriers are designed to protect the traveling public,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The investigation into Mr. Leto shows that he flagrantly violated these rules — and continued to do so after the FAA took action to take him out of the air.”
If convicted on all charges, Leto faces maximum of 6 years in prison.