Michael Francis Brassington,
the pilot arrested two weeks ago on felony charges in the February 2005 crash of
a Challenger business jet at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport, flew illegal
charter flights for corrupt Premier Michael Misick of the Turks & Caicos Islands
on Gulfstream jets owned by a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton.
A British Commission of Inquiry into corruption in
the Turks & Caicos Islands last week heard testimony that former Guyanese
military pilot Brassington, currently facing a 23-count indictment in Federal Court in
Newark for endangering passengers lives, has since several months after the
Challenger jet crash been in business with Misick, who was just forced to
resign, using jets provided by Jeffrey Watson, a former Clinton Aide and now a
The Commission heard
testimony that Brassington and Turks & Caicos Premier Michael Misick
conspired to induce the
island's government to pay hundreds
of thousands of dollars a month to Watson to lease two high-end
Gulfstream III luxury business jets.
The men engineered an air
charter deal that paid Watson more than $160,000-a-month from the coffers of the
Turks & Caicos' nearly-bankrupt government, which was at the same time
eliminating all student scholarships.
former housing official in Miami who became a
Special Assistant t0 Clinton in the White House, where he was responsible for doling out $75 million in
Federal government largesse after
the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.
hurricane plan was shaped in part by Florida's insider at the White House:
Jeffrey Watson," reported the April 29 1993 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
"Lifestyles of the Rich & Shameless"
Commission of inquiry probe uncovered evidence of massive corruption by Misick,
whose assets of $50,000 when he took office six years ago multiplied like
loaves and fishes on steroids from A-Rod's cousin in the Dominican
Republic until today he is
worth an estimated $80 million, according to the testimony of his estranged
wife, Hollywood actress Lisa-Raye McCoy.
The inquiry also
revealed that Brassington, a
former Guyanese military pilot with a very checkered U.S. aviation career,
continues to fly illegal charter flights in and out of the United States
despite government sanctions by both the FAA and NTSB which have included
rare emergency cease-and-desist orders as well as orders affirming the emergency
revocation of his pilot’s license.
Aviation observers have long been puzzled as to what, or who, has been keeping
Brassington flying. Some no doubt
suspected he had
high-level government connections.
They point to
seeming impunity with the
FAA, U.S. Customs, and the DEA, despite frequent incidents any one of
which would have forever grounded most pilots.
it took Federal officials
four years--and a change of Administrations--to charge Brassington did nothing
to change their opinion.
Brassington had also
suffered no ill effects from being the co-pilot
in July of 2000 on a Lear jet which belonged to Wally Hilliard, owner of the
Venice flight school which had enrolled Mohamed Atta in its flight training
program earlier that month, when the Lear was seized by
DEA agents in Orlando, who found 43 lbs. of heroin onboard. The event would
almost certainly guarantee most pilots some
state-sponsored downtime... but
His name didn't even appear in newspaper accounts
of the bust.
Had it been known that
he was flying
jets belonging to an influential lobbyist and former official in the Clinton
Administration, it would have cleared up considerable confusion.
generation gets the
Mayor Daley it deserves."
and Misick made full use of the Gulfstreams being paid for by the cash-strapped
Turks & Caicos government. The British Commission heard testimony that they had
used the planes to go to Africa, Switzerland, London, Paris, and back and forth
between Hollywood and the Caribbean.
Gulfstreams, including tail number N165G, were owned by
Watson through Indigo Management, a company he controls, through several limited
liability companies (LLC's) registered in the state of Idaho.
When a plane was transferred to
Brassington’s control, the plane's registration was changed from the Idaho shell
to Indigo, which lists a Florida address. The transactions were made through
Rudy A. Figueroa,
a partner in n Illinois law firm run by the cousin of
Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley Jr.
Brassington is currently
facing a 23-count indictment for egregious violations leading to the Challenger
crash, which left
James Dinnal, a 66-year old
New Jersey factory worker in a car on his way to work,
with permanent brain damage
after the Challenger jet ripped off the top of the call.
had seen the plane coming as it hurtled towards them through an airport fence,
after skidding off an airport runway. He shouted a desperate warning to the
driver an instant before the corporate jet sheared off the roof of their car,
and then paid for his heroic act by spending more than a month in a coma.
His driver-buddy publicly
credited him with saving his life.
had resulted from the accident," said aviation attorney Mark Fava of Columbia,
South Carolina, "then the US Attorney's office would have had grounds to pursue
a negligent homicide criminal indictment against Platinum Jet's executives and
"Hell hath no damn fury"
Brassington had a politically well-placed
business partner came during testimony by
American actress Lisa-Raye McCoy-Misick, the now very estranged
wife of the Turks & Caicos Premier.
The duo met at an Awards
Ceremony in Hollywood, but their marriage didn't pick up any Grammy's, and
dissolved amid mutual allegations of biting each other in a fight.
By the time she appeared
before the British Commission of inquiry
Lisa-Raye McCoy had several
axes to grind with her husband.
For one thing, she testified,
he had given her a Rolls Royce Phantom for her birthday, which she later learned
had been leased in her name. When the couple parted she discovered she was
obligated to make the $6000 a month lease payments.
Perhaps more importantly, she
learned that in one of her absence, a rival for her husband's affections
had been giving tours to visitors in the Premier's residence, as if the house
were her own.
It probably didn't help that her
rival, BET hip-hop DJ Rocsi, had a racy cover on newsstands.
testimony was credited by observers with helping to force Misick’s resignation
late last week. And it reveals that Brassington's close relationship with former
Clinton advisor Jeffrey Watson...
Q. You have referred
to “Captain Mike.” Some of the documents, I needn't trouble you with them now,
we see reference to a gentleman called Mike Brassington. Is that the man you
knew as Captain Mike?
A. I do not recall
his last name.
Q. Fair enough, I
will take it no further. But the process that you were going through, you said:
he sent me swatches. Is that Captain Mike sent them or did the Premier send you
"Capt. Mike" & Jeffrey
A. They faxed me colored swatches and then that was not good enough for me, and so
as I was waiting for them to send me everything, I asked Michael: where is
everything. He said they sent it to Jeffrey Watson, a friend of his. And I said: why
would they send it to him when I am the one clearly picking the colours; and he
said: he is going to send them to you, he was coming down, he just forgot about
them; because I just saw him the weekend before. "
Q. You had seen
Jeffrey Watson the weekend before?
A. Mm-hmm. He did
not give me anything, so I kind of was like: why did he not give them to me. I
kind of felt like they were being held from me.
Q. First of all,
can I ask you, how often did you meet Jeffrey Watson?
A. Quite a bit. He
would come to the island. He would stay with us at the house.
MR FITZGERALD: Gulf Stream 3
N165G. You were asked to look at a particular page to see the offer to purchase.
In fact, is this right, that you accept that in fact that plane was leased from
A. No, I didn't
Q. But now you have
heard the evidence that was given and –
A. I have heard
and I can't really attach it to Indigo but I have heard that it was leased. I
heard that. I can't really say I know and remember which company.
Q. All right, but
you know that when you wanted to do the refit it was not in fact done, is that
A. I can't really
say that either because when it went for inspection, that was supposed to be the
time in which all of the changes were supposed to be made but I understand that
it took time to order these things and you know nine weeks for the carpet and 12
weeks for this and that. So as things were being ready, they were going to be
Twelve weeks of this n' dat"
Q. Is this right,
that, Captain Mike, on your own account, said that the designs would have to be
sent to Jeffrey Watson?
A. No. He was
supposed to send them to me. He and I had conversations about them. What he did
tell me when I kind of bagged him in a corner and said: hey, where are the
swatches and things? He said that he gave them to Jeffrey Watson and that
Jeffrey said that he was going to give them to me because he was coming on a
trip down here.
Q. Did you ever say: hey, it is our plane, why
can Jeffrey Watson say it can't be refurbished?
A. No, I didn't say that to him because that
was none of his business and I try not to put people in our business like
Q. Did you ever say to the Premier: hey, this
is our plane, I wanted it refurbished?
A. I did. I said why did he send the
information to Jeffrey and he said to me that, you know, Jeffrey was coming
done here and he was supposed to give it to me. And I said no, because he had come on a trip
and I hadn't received it.
Q. The reality is that this was not your own or
the Premier's plane, but a plane being leased, isn't that right?
A. I never knew that it was leased at all.
SUNDAY: THE MAN BEHIND "LOOPHOLE AIR"
NEXT TUESDAY: OTHER OWNERS OF BRASSINGTON'S