On September 15, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced Richard Paul Harper, a citizen of the United Kingdom, to time served amounting to nearly 8 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment. In addition, he must surrender to an immigration official for deportation. Harper is the former owner and operator of Apple International, Inc., an aircraft repair station based in Bristol, Tennessee, and the United Kingdom.
On June 16, 2020, Harper admitted in court that he obtained a helicopter with significant damage to its underbelly. Rather than make the necessary and costly repairs, a large portion of the helicopter’s fuselage was switched with the fuselage of another helicopter that had crashed in New Jersey, and the original data plates were affixed to the fuselage of the combination helicopter. The data plate switch concealed the true history of the helicopters’ damage and repairs. With intent to defraud, Harper actively marketed and tried to sell the resulting helicopter with switched data plates to an aircraft broker and other unsuspecting purchasers.
DOT-OIG led this joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations, with substantial assistance from FAA.