Completing an 18 month investigation, the California Department of Justice has charged 40 pilots with lying to the FAA to fraudulently obtain medical certificates. Apparently the defendants were collecting disability benefits from the Social Security Administration based on serious medical and psychological conditions, which would have prevented them from operating an aircraft. However, they failed to disclose those disqualifying conditions on their airman medical applications and obtained airmen medical certificates as a result. Thirty of the pilots have been indicted on felony charges of making false statements to a government agency and face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The other ten pilots face misdemeanor charges of making and delivering a false official writing and are looking at up to a year in jail.
Now maybe its just me, but how stupid can you get. I know that usually the right hand of government doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, but one thing both hands do is retain paperwork. It is one thing to fail to disclose a disqualifying medical condition to the FAA based upon a diagnosis by a private physician has an ethical obligation to maintain the doctor-patient privilege. I am sure this happens more than we would like to acknowledge and I can see how this situation is difficult for the government to discover.
But in this case you would think that the indicted pilots knew that the paperwork they completed to obtain their social security disability benefits was completely contradictory to the statements they made in their airman medical applications and should have realized that the government, granted different agencies within the government, had all of the paperwork. I suppose they figured that no one would ever compare the documents and that they wouldn’t get caught. Seems like a big risk when you have voluntarily given the government the paperwork necessary to charge and convict you of a crime.
For more information on the results of Operation Safe Pilot, you can read the California DOJ’s press release here.