Pilot Indicted After Crashing DC-3 on Bandit Flight

The following information was released by the U.S. Department of Justice:

Federal agencies announced May 5 the indictment and arraignment of defendant, Charles Riggs, 63, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Riggs, an airplane pilot, appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Miami, and was arraigned on the 20 count criminal indictment. Specifically, the indictment charges Riggs with 19 counts of operating an aircraft in air commerce in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 47011(a)(5), and one (1) count of failing to file a required U.S. Customs form, in violation of Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations Part 122.166(c)(2). The charges stem from Riggs' June 13, 2005, ill-fated commercial cargo flight from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport to Abaco, in the Bahamas.

If convicted, Riggs faces a fine of up to $5,000 on each of the 19 counts and up to one year imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000 for his failure to file a U.S. Customs declaration form.

On June 13, a DC-3 aircraft piloted by Riggs crashed on a local street in Fort Lauderdale minutes after takeoff from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. This was a "bandit flight," not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. FAA regulations exist to protect the flying public. For unregulated bandit flight operators, however, profits often take precedence over safety.

"This indictment should serve as a message to pilots who operate commercial aircraft without the proper regulatory oversight that the federal government will continue aggressively investigating these cases to route you out," said Jesus Torres, Special Agent in Charge of ICE in Miami. "The flying public should be aware that these bandit aircrafts exist and should ensure that the airlines that they use are properly certified."

"Ensuring the safety of the flying public is FAA's Job One," said Sergio Lopez, Manager, FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office. "Only companies that have passed FAA's rigorous safety-review and approval process are legally allowed to carry passengers for hire.

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