SANTA MONICA—On Monday, April 24, an Irvine resident was sentenced to 10 months in prison for flying private jets without a valid pilot’s license.
Arnold Gerald Leto III, president of Aviation Financial Services in Irvine, pleaded guilty to two counts of operating aircraft without a license in October 2016. He admitted to flying a Cessna Citation turbojet from Santa Monica Airport to Phoenix on January 30, 2015, and a Falcon 10 turbojet from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas on April 8, 2016, as the sole pilot. Paying passengers were aboard on both occasions.
Leto, 37, did not have proper authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate turbojet-powered aircraft. According to authorities, the Cessna Citation and Falcon 10 turbojets require two pilots to operate. Leto’s pilot certificate, which was previously revoked in January 2016 by the FAA, did not have a turbojet rating authorizing him to fly without a co-pilot.
“Federal regulations governing the operation of aircraft and other common carriers are designed to protect the traveling public,” said United States 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.”
The case was investigated by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and the FAA. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Leto was ordered to serve a year of supervised release after his 10-month sentence in prison and to pay a $5,500 fine.
Leto could have faced a maximum sentence of 6 years in prison, if the case had gone to trial.