November 9, 2017
Former FAA Aviation Safety Inspector and the Co-Owner of a South Florida Aviation Repair Company Charged in Bribery Scheme
On November 2, 2017, a Federal grand jury returned a 34-count indictment charging Manuel Fernandez, a former FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), and Patricia Suarez, co-owner of Avcom Avionics and Instruments (AVCOM) with conspiracy to bribe a public official, bribery of a public official, false statements, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud. AVCOM’s other owner, Rolando Suarez, was previously convicted and sentenced in connection with the ongoing investigation.
The indictment alleges that from approximately 2010 to 2013, Fernandez was employed with the FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez were the co-owners, officers, and directors of AVCOM, an FAA-approved aviation repair facility. Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez corruptly provided thousands of dollars in cash, income, credit cards, vacation cruises, airline tickets, and other things of value to Fernandez. In turn, Fernandez provided AVCOM with improperly obtained aviation repair manuals, which saved AVCOM vast sums of money. Fernandez helped AVCOM alter and erase language, warnings, and advisories that indicated the material in the manuals was confidential, proprietary, copyrighted, and a trade secret. Fernandez also provided AVCOM with notice and warnings regarding FAA inspections and investigations of AVCOM and its competitors, disclosed sensitive and confidential information regarding AVCOM’s competitors, and concealed and failed to report AVCOM’s legal, regulatory, and policy violations to FAA.
In addition, Fernandez allegedly provided false statements to FAA and DOT to hide his AVCOM-focused activities, and he electronically submitted fraudulent sick leave requests to FAA, in one case using a forged and fictitious doctor’s note.
DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the FBI.
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.