Former FAA inspector gets 6 years for bribery, fraud scheme

MIAMI (AP) — A former Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector in South Florida was sentenced Thursday to six years and three months in prison for his part in a bribery and fraud scheme.

A federal jury in Miami found Manuel Fernandez, 42, guilty in June of 21 criminal counts, including bribery, lying to a federal agency and wire fraud.

From 2010 to 2013, Fernandez worked for the FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office while also working for AVCOM, a Miami aviation repair company under the FAA’s jurisdiction, prosecutors said.

AVCOM owners Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez paid Fernandez more than $150,000, as well as jewelry, a cruise, clothing and about $15,000 for Fernandez’s mother, according to court documents. In exchange, Fernandez provided advance notice of inspections, disclosed financial information about AVCOM’s competitors and provided AVCOM with improperly obtained aviation repair manuals that contained expensive proprietary information. Fernandez also lied to the FAA and Department of Transportation about his connection to AVCOM.

Fernandez is scheduled to surrender and begin his sentence Jan. 6. A restitution hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Rolando Suarez previously received a two-year prison sentence for his part in the scheme, and Patricia Suarez received five years of probation. They were ordered to jointly pay $711,940 in restitution.

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