California Man Sentenced to Prison for Piloting Private Jets without a Type Rating

The FAA learned he flew paying customers in a Citation and Falcon on a number of occasions without certification.

Cessna Citation
A California man was sentenced to 10 months in prison for illegally piloting Cessna Citation and Falcon 10 jets for paying passengers.Textron Aviation

On April 27, 2016, Arnold Gerald Leto III was arrested on federal charges of illegally piloting a private airplane from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without a pilot's license. The Department of Justice and FAA determined that Leto had illegally piloted a number of flights dating back to at least 2015, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to the charges. This week, Leto was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison, and required to pay a $5,500 fine.

In January 2015, Leto took paying passengers from Santa Monica, California, to Phoenix, despite never having received a type rating for a turbojet-powered aircraft. For that trip, he served as the sole pilot of a Cessna Citation. A month later, he received certification to serve as second-in-command on a Citation, but ignored that designation and continued to fly solo. In April 2015, he flew a Citation on two occasions, first from Burbank to Bermuda Dunes, California, and then from Santa Monica to Bentonville, Arkansas.

Leto's final flight came on April 8, 2016, when he was the sole pilot of a twin-engine Falcon 10 on a trip from Van Nuys Airport in L.A. to Las Vegas, on which there were eight passengers. By this point, the FAA had already revoked what pilot certifications he had. Leto never received a Falcon 10 type rating, which in this case, according to the criminal complaint, requires two pilots.

“Federal regulations governing the operation of aircraft and other common carriers are designed to protect the traveling public,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker after Leto’s arrest in 2016. “The investigation into Mr. Leto shows that he flagrantly violated these rules – and continued to do so after the FAA took action to take him out of the air. A swift and thorough investigation by the Department of Transportation has now improved the safety of all air travelers.”