According to the FAA Office of Inspector General, the owner of Carlsbad Aircraft Sales, Inc. in Carlsbad, California has pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to make false statements or writings. Apparently the salesman admitted that he made payments of $100 – $200 each to an unindicted co-conspirator (who holds an FAA Inspection Authorization) in order to obtain annual inspection sign-offs on eight aircraft when in fact the inspections were never performed. According to the OIG, the inspection is ongoing and being conducted jointly with the FBI.
Seems strange to me that the IA was not indicted at the same time. However, unless he was working with the government in its investigation, I would guess that his indictment should be coming. For those aircraft owners who would like to cut corners on an annual inspection to save cost or avoid the down-time, this case is a good example of what can happen if you knowingly attempt to circumvent federal requirements. Although it appears more blatantly criminal given the complete absence of any annual inspections being performed, aircraft owners should be aware that the government will prosecute knowing attempts to circumvent regulatory requirements, especially when written documentation such as logbooks or applications are involved.
Aside from the criminal nature of the conduct, this doesn’t even address the obvious safety issues and risks involved with such conduct. By purchasing the sign-offs, the salesman was clearly placing persons and property at risk for injury or damage from a mechanical failure that would otherwise have been caught by a proper annual inspection. At the end of the day, compliance, though more expensive, is definitely the better approach and in reality, is cheaper in the long run.
You can read a brief reference to this case on the FAA OIG’s website here.