Miami Executives Sold Used Airplane Parts as ‘Airworthy.’ They Weren’t.

July 10, 2024
L3Harris got ripped off the most, replacing $461,261 worth of fraudulent parts at a loss of $204,055.

Selling damaged aviation parts not approved as “airworthy” cost men from Miami Lakes and Hialeah their freedom. And, court documents say, the criminal activity cost one of them a $1.1 million house.

The criminal activity falls under “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” to which Miami Lakes’ Daniel Navarro and Hialeah’s Jorge Guerrero each pleaded guilty. The federal government became a victim when Navarro and Guerrero, both of Sofly Aviation Services, included a Department of Defense contractor among the companies to which they sold the bad parts.

U.S. District Senior Judge Federico A. Moreno sentenced the 71-year-old Guerrero, Sofly’s procurement and asset management specialist, to a year and a day in prison. Sofly Vice President Daniel Navarro, 50, got to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Navarro ran the aviation parts distributor day-to-day. Sofly’s official president was Navarro’s wife, Jaise Mursuli, despite, court documents say, “there being no evidence she ran the company or had any other responsibilities.”

Another court filing says approximately $93,309 of Navarro and Mursuli’s salaries came from Sofly’s fraudulent sales. So prosecutors got a cash forfeiture ruling for that amount. To satisfy it, they also got an order of forfeiture against 8635 NW 169th Ter., a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 4,500-square-foot house with a pool. The couple bought the Miami Lakes house in 2016 for $810,000.

By that time, Navarro and Guerrero had started their ripoff.

The parts were not worthy

The “As Removed” or “AR” designation for aircraft parts, explains a blog on the Aviation Suppliers Association website, “infers that the part is being represented as an unserviceable part whose airworthiness must be reestablished before it can be installed on an aircraft.”

As stated by the Justice Department and admitted in the guilty pleas, from 2012 to 2019, Navarro and Guerrero bought such parts, “then resold them using certificates that falsely claimed the parts to be airworthy under the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

“Most often, Navarro and Guerrero would use an FAA approved repair station’s FAA certificate number to falsely certify the part to have been overhauled, tested/inspected or repaired by that repair station, when in fact they never were,” according to court documents.

The Sofly customer companies were Toronto-based Porter Airlines and Air Georgian, which was a charter airline before its assets were sold to corporate cousin Pivot Airlines; and L3Harris, a Melbourne company that just got an $871 million U.S. Army contract and has worked on the modernization of the B-52 bomber.

Navarro and Guerrero also were ordered to pay $344,725 in restitution to the companies.

L3Harris got ripped off the most, replacing $461,261 worth of fraudulent parts at a loss of $204,055.

The guilty pleas say Sofly sold L3Harris “two indicators,” which the Smithsonian Institution says can be indicators for airspeed, altitude, heading or vertical speed; a connector, which can be used for signal transmission and for plugging in to a power source, connector company Sunkye says; a harness assembly, a “grouping of wires, cables or subassemblies designed to transmit signals or electrical power,” according to Epec engineering technologies; and an oxygen oxygen mask stowage box, used for holding the crew’s emergency oxygen masks.

When L3Harris asked that the harness assembly be in new or overhauled condition, Navarro’s guilty plea says he “forwarded the request to Guerrero and wrote that Guerrero should procure a part in “any condition’‘ for the sale.”

This came from an investigation by the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General and Defense Criminal Investigative Service with help from the FAA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Keller and Sara Klco handled the prosecution and forfeiture, respectively.

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