Theodore Robert Wright III, a young serial entrepreneur and pilot who gained notoriety for chronicling his larger-than-life flying exploits in photos on Facebook and Instagram, now faces the prospect of spending much of the rest of his life in prison after federal law enforcement officials charged the 32-year-old with multiple counts of insurance fraud.
Federal prosecutors allege that Wright, who was involved in a highly publicized ditching of his Beech Baron in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012, set the plane down in deep water intentionally so he could collect $85,000 in insurance money, almost double what he paid for the airplane. Video Wright shot of the incident with his iPad made national news but apparently also raised the eyebrows of law enforcement officials when he later made a promotional video for a waterproof case protecting the iPad.
That’s not where the alleged fraud ended, prosecutors say. In an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, Wright and three associates are charged with multiple felonies. Besides the Baron, officials say Wright was involved in the destruction of a 1971 Cessna Citation, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a luxury sailboat in Hawaii, all to collect insurance payouts.
Also charged are Shane Gordon of Texas, Raymond Fosdick of South Carolina, and Edward Delima of Hawaii. Wright and Gordon are listed as owners and managers of several corporations and businesses that were used to launder money from the conspiracy, the indictment asserts. Prosecutors allege the men would acquire vehicles, insure them, destroy the vehicles and then collect the insurance money, a conspiracy that lasted from March 2012 to March of this year, according to the indictment.
Wright purchased the 1966 Beechcraft Baron for $46,000 in March 2012 via two of his corporations, Government Auctions Online and Sly International Holdings. He insured it for $85,000 through payments from the same two corporations, according to the indictment.
Wright and Fosdick in September 2012 flew the plane from Texas and were heading for Florida when it allegedly had a mechanical failure, ditched and sank. Fosdick filed a lawsuit in September 2013 against Wright for injuries he received in the plane crash, according to the indictment. The lawsuit came after Wright sent Fosdick an email in April 2013 referencing a debt, according to the indictment. The case was eventually settled for $100,000, according to the indictment.
A company owned by Gordon, Carissus LLC, then purchased a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo in November 2013 with a salvage title for $76,000, prosecutors say. Wright had the car insured the same month and in March 2014 drove it into a ditch full of water, according to the indictment. The insurance company sent Wright and Carissus a check for about $169,500, according to the indictment.
Plaisir en Vol, a corporation owned by Gordon, then purchased a 1971 Cessna 500 twinjet for $190,000 in March 2014 and insured it for $440,000, according to the indictment. Fosdick allegedly set the airplane on fire in Athens, Texas, on September 13, 2014. The insurance company made a $440,000 payment to Plaisir en Vol, according to the indictment.
Shortly after, in October 2014, Theodore R. Wright Enterprises purchased a 1998 Hunter Passage sailboat for $50,000. Delima then had the vessel insured for $195,000, according to the indictment. The vessel was later damaged after partially sinking in a marina in Hawaii, leading to a $180,000 insurance payout.
Each man faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy and wire fraud charges, five to 20 years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit arson of property used in interstate commerce charges, and 10 years and a $250,000 fine for use of fire to commit a felony.
Wright gained notoriety online for his posts showing his exploits in his L-39 jet, Learjet and various other aircraft. He since appears to have deleted his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Neither Wright nor his attorney responded to a request for comment.