On December 5, 2019, Manuel Fernandez, a former FAA aviation safety inspector, was sentenced by the U.S. District Court, Miami, Florida, to 75 months of incarceration, 3 years of supervised release, a $2,100 assessment, and a $10,000 fine. He was also forbidden to work in the aviation parts industry and must permanently relinquish his FAA certificate if the Agency makes that request. Fernandez was convicted on June 13, 2019, following a jury trial.
The investigation revealed that from approximately 2010 to 2013, Fernandez was employed by FAA’s South Florida Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez were the co-owners, officers, and directors of Avcom Avionics and Instruments, an FAA-approved aviation repair facility subject to the South Florida FSDO’s jurisdiction and oversight. The Suarezes bribed Fernandez with over $150,000 in cash, jewelry, a cruise, and clothing, as well as approximately $15,000 that was funneled to his mother. In exchange, Fernandez violated his lawful and official duties as an FAA employee and gave Avcom advanced notice about pending FAA inspections and financial information about the company’s competitors. He also provided improperly obtained aviation repair manuals from equipment manufacturers such as Honeywell and Delta, saving Avcom from paying vast sums of money for this proprietary information. The evidence further showed that Fernandez provided materially false statements to FAA and DOT to hide his participation in these corrupt activities and submitted a fraudulent sick leave request to FAA, using a forged doctor’s note.
DOT-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted this investigation with substantial assistance from FAA.