Santa Monica Airport

An Orange County man has been sentenced to ten months in prison for flying a plane out of the Santa Monica Airport without a license.

Last October, Arnold Gerald Leto III pleaded guilty to the charges, admitting to flying a Cessna Citation aircraft from Santa Monica Airport to Phoenix in 2015. In April, 2016, Leto piloted a Falcone 10 turbo-jet aircraft from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. On both occasions, Leto had passengers onboard.

The FAA has revoked Leto’s remaining airman certificates after finding various violations of Federal aviation regulations. Leto could have faced a statutory maximum sentence of six years in federal prison.

“Federal regulations governing the operation of aircraft and other common carriers are designed to protect the traveling public,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “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.”

The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General investigated the case with assistance from the FAA. A Line Service Technician at the Van Nuys airport told the FAA inspector he saw Leto take off with seven or eight passengers without a second pilot April 8 last year, according to court documents. The FAA requires a pilot and co-pilot as minimum crew for the Cessna Model involved in the incident.

In court documents, Leto’s attorney argued for leniency, saying Leto was the primary provider for his family and had cooperated with investigators.