June 13, 2019
Former FAA Aviation Safety Inspector Convicted for Bribery and Fraud
On June 13, 2019, a Federal jury in U.S. District Court, Miami, Florida, convicted Manuel R. Fernandez, a former FAA aviation safety inspector, for conspiracy to bribe a public official, bribery, false statements, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud.
From 2010 to 2013, Fernandez worked in FAA’s South Florida Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). At the same time, he also held various positions, including vice president of operations, at AVCOM, an aviation repair facility owned by Patricia and Rolando Suarez. The Miami-based AVCOM fell under the jurisdiction of the South Florida FSDO.
The investigation revealed that the Suarezes provided over $150,000 to Fernandez—in the form of cash, jewelry, a cruise, clothing, and $15,000 to Fernandez’s mother. In return, Fernandez gave AVCOM advance notice about FAA inspections, financial information about the company’s competitors, and improperly obtained aviation repair manuals—proprietary information that would have cost AVCOM vast sums of money. In addition, Fernandez provided false statements to FAA, including a fraudulent sick leave request and a forged doctor’s note, to hide his connection to AVCOM.
The Suarezes were convicted previously and ordered to jointly pay $711,940.46 in restitution to FAA. In addition, Rolando Suarez was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and Patricia Suarez was sentenced to 60 months’ probation.
DOT-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted this investigation with substantial assistance from FAA.