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Pilot sentenced for lying on FAA medical applications

Six months home confinement, $750K fines for three FAA charges

A Louisiana pilot who admitted in a post-conviction plea deal to defrauding two federal agencies out of disability benefits over several years was sentenced June 11 to six months of home confinement and three years' probation, along with $850,000 in fines, $750,000 of which are specifically related to fraudulent FAA medical certificate applications submitted in 2018, 2020, and 2022.

Photo by David Tulis.

Edward L. Angel Sr., 71, of Shreveport, was convicted by a federal jury in February on three counts of making false statements to the FAA, though the jury deadlocked on additional charges related to veterans and Social Security disability benefits Angel received following fraudulent applications for those benefits.

Angel pleaded guilty to one of those remaining charges related to fraudulently obtaining federal benefits in March, and the federal government recovered (prior to sentencing) $141,972 in restitution of disability benefits Angel received from the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs between 2017 and 2021. That restitution was recovered from the defendant's bank accounts soon thereafter, according to court documents. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss additional charges included in the original indictment as part of the plea agreement.

Angel, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel, according to federal officials, was apparently among the 4,800 pilots whose medical certificate applications were investigated by the Department of Justice and other agencies after the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General uncovered discrepancies with information provided on those FAA applications that was inconsistent with information the VA had on record, including applications for VA disability benefits. AOPA has worked with many members since that investigation unfolded, and urged the FAA to follow the process and enforcement procedures previously implemented, including amnesty for those individuals who inadvertently or mistakenly omitted information on their medical certificate applications. AOPA President Mark Baker, in a March 30, 2023, letter to the FAA, noted the large number of affected pilots was evidence of a systemic problem.

A federal jury found that Angel had made no such mistaken or inadvertent omission when it convicted him in February following a weeklong trial before Judge David C. Joseph. The jury deliberated for 15 hours before voting unanimously to convict Angel on three counts of making false statements to the FAA, specifically failing to disclose "his service-related disability of Primary Lateral Sclerosis," the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana announced in February.

According to court records and statements from prosecutors, Angel applied in 2011 and 2012 for a VA program that allows veterans with service-related disabilities who own small businesses to receive federal contracting assistance in the form of set-aside contracts. Angel reported to the VA that he was the president of ELA Group Inc., and, later, Paradigm Engineers and Constructors. In 2013, Angel began receiving monthly VA disability benefits based on his reported inability to work, having represented to the VA that he had been unemployed since 2009, and subsequently collecting monthly payments totaling $93,819.29 to which he was not entitled. Angel also applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2011, failing to disclose he operated two companies. "As a result of these misrepresentations, he received $48,153.60 in disability payments he was not entitled to receive," the U.S. attorney noted in a press release, referring to the Social Security checks.

Angel faced up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the charges related to his FAA medical certificate applications for which he was convicted at trial. He waived the right to challenge any sentence imposed by the court in the plea agreement that he signed in March, admitting his guilt to a single charge of defrauding the federal government, for which the judge imposed a fine of $100,000 and three years of supervised release, to run concurrently with the three-year supervised release imposed for the FAA-related convictions, including six months of home confinement. The court gave Angel six months to pay fines totaling $850,000, including $100,000 related to the charge of theft of government funds that he pleaded guilty to, with additional penalties payable if the deadline is not met. (The court also assessed additional penalties totaling $325 related to the charges, which the defendant has paid, according to court records.)

The court imposed six conditions on Angel's supervised release, including required financial disclosure and oversight by the probation office. The sixth condition is that he shall not fly during his three-year probation: "Given the danger posed to the public by his failure to disclose his medical condition to the FAA, defendant cannot pilot or co-pilot any aircraft during his term of supervised probation."

Angel filed an emergency motion on June 13 seeking the court's permission to visit the local YMCA to exercise daily. "As per the attached letter from Mr. Angel's doctor, Mr. Angel must exercise daily at the YMCA, where Mr. Angel uses equipment and resources (such as the swimming pool) that are not available to Mr. Angel in his home to prevent muscle atrophy due to his Primary Lateral Sclerosis," the motion states, noting that the prosecutor did not object. The court approved that request within hours.

Jim Moore
Jim Moore
Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.

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