Reporting Laura Cole
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A man claiming to be a pilot somehow managed to get hired to fly hospital and news choppers, taking flight more than 300 times.
The phony flier had more than two-dozen different identities, according to federal investigators.
The suspect, John Dial, is alleged to have used one of those aliases to get work flying helicopters over the course of three years.
According to court documents, “The investigation revealed on separate occasions that the subject used both the ficticious name of Thomas R. Cuni, and then later his real name of Jon Dial in order to get hired as a pilot.”
And it says he used his real and a fake identity with the same company, Helicopters Inc. That company is based in Illinois and hires news helicopter pilots. Investigators also say he worked as a medevac pilot, and in all flew more than 300 times around Northern California.
He flew hundreds of times in the Bay Area and flew a helicopter for KCRA-TV in Sacramento around March 23, 2012, according to the complaint.
But why use a fake name?
“Under his real name, he had lost his pilot’s license in the mid-1990s, and in order to continue flying, he had to invent this persona and become this other person,” said assistant U.S. attorney Kyle Reardon.
According to the feds, Dial has a past, including prior convictions for forgery, theft, and bad checks.
He was also convicted of making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration in 1994.
The complaint says he has 25 aliases in law-enforcement databases, six social-security numbers, and even 10 dates of birth.
The court documents suggest it was all part of an effort to keep investigators, the FAA and his employers from determining who was really behind the controls in the cockpit.
“In the post-Sept. 11 age, they take a great deal of interest in receiving accurate information about who is behind the controls of a helicopter and airplane, and they want to make sure that the people who are flying those aircraft are in fact the people that they say they are.”
CBS13 attempted to contact Helicopter Inc., but we did not hear back from the company.
Dial was arrested in the New York area on Monday. He was before a federal magistrate in Syracuse on Monday and is on his way back to Sacramento.
He faces up to five years in prison.