The Bombardier Challenger 600 jet that went hurtling towards the end of the runway at Teterboro Airport at nearly 200 miles an hour before plowing through a steel perimeter fence and plunging across a six-lane highway before crashing into a clothing warehouse and bursting into flames finally put an end to Michael Brassington’s decade-long crime spree in a federal court in New Jersey.
Until a federal jury in New Jersey returned verdicts of guilty on the most serious charges facing him yesterday, nothing had come close to stopping—or even slowing down—Guyanese pilot Brassington’s flagrant disregard for American justice.
The jet had sheared the tops off of two cars and nearly decapitated one of the occupants, who had bravely shouted a warning to his companion to duck an instant before being struck by the wing of the plane, leaving him permanently brain-damaged. Both pilots and two other people on the ground were also seriously injured.
Jurors deliberated for four days following the month-long trial in U.S. District Court in Newark before finding Michael Brassington, 37, and his brother Paul Brassington, 31, both of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla, guilty of the more serious offenses in the indictment.
Federal jurors convicted Michael Brassington of lying on FAA-required paperwork to hide the fact that ill-qualified or unrested pilots were at the controls on some of the flights, lying to a National Transportation Safety Board accident panel, and endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, a charge normally used only in terrorism cases.
"The Brassington Files
As a result of the convictions, Michael Brassington faces 20 or more years in prison.
But questions remain. Why did it take three years to indict him?
Brassington continued to fly illegal charters unmolested by authorities after the crash. until finally being indicted in February of 2008, two weeks after the Bush Administration left office.
Why the wait?
Was the long wait for the indictment due to new information surfacing more than three years after the plane crash? It seems unlikely.
Questions arise. Did someone in the Bush Adminstation protect Brassington from prosecution until Bush left office?
There is also a certain “Al Capone-like” quality to Brassington’s conviction.
Gangster Capone was never charged with the serious and even capital crimes he was widely known to have committed, and only went to prison after being convicted of tax evasion.
“The Brassington Files” contains clues to the answer. We've tracked his lurching progress in stories published on this website for almost eight years, during which eyewitnesses have implicated him in a continuing criminal enterprise of breathtaking scope and magnitude, with ties right at the top of both major political parties.
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To cite just one example: Brassington was the copilot on weekly drug flights to Venezuela and back on a Learjet owned by Wallace J. Hilliard’s Plane One Leasing in Naples, Florida.
Hilliard, we recently learned, is currently residing in Mexico. And he appears to have been involved with Brassington until 2007.
After Brassington's crash, Platinum Jet was no longer allowed to operate. The ever-resourceful Brasssington promptly re-incorporated at Premium Jet, and continued to operate.
At roughtly the same time, Wally Hilliard also incorporated a dummy compnay called Premium Jet, perhaps to provide Brassington some additional "cover."
Then, on July 25, 2000, the plane was surrounded by DEA agents on a runway at Orlando Executive Airport. Agents found 43 lbs. of heroin onboard.
Two Venezuelan passengers—who had paid for each of 39 weekly charters in cash, a huge red flag—were taken into custody, and later convicted.
Wally Hilliard’s Learjet was seized. His petition to a Federal Court Judge in Orlando to be declared an innocent owner and have the plane returned to him was denied.
Yet Brassington was never charged.
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Back in New Jersey, federal authorities stated Brassington’s "anything goes" attitude led him to routinely violate guidelines designed to prevent crashes like the one in Teterboro.
"The defendants chose to commit crimes in the pursuit of profits over public safety," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Monday. "A pattern of fraud and deception is not a business plan. Today's verdict confirms that there are consequences when you break the law to boost your bottom line."
Michael Brassington, the company’s former president, chief operating officer and chief pilot, was portrayed by prosecutors as the architect of a brazen scheme to defraud passengers, charter brokers, the Federal Aviation Administration and others by misrepresenting his company’s compliance with safety regulations. He put the lives of passengers at risk each and every time he put a plane in the air.
“A pattern of fraud and deception is not a business plan,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. “Today’s verdict confirms that there are consequences when you break the law to boost your bottom line.”
Platinum eventually boasted a client list that included Luciano Pavarotti, Duran Duran, Keith Richards, Snoop Dogg, film producer Harvey Weinstein, former NFL great Joe Montana, Michael Stipe from the B-52’s, Jon Bon Jovi, Shaquille O’Neal, Jay Z and even Ozzy Osbourne, who paid as much as $85,000 per flight.
In addition, both former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush flew on charters with Platinum.
Brassington's $2 Million fine: Going for pennies on the dollar?
Defense attorneys sought to portray the Brassingtons as the victims of bad legal advice through the testimony of an attorney who said he advised them they could fly charters without a commercial certificate if they used fewer than six charter brokers.
The attorney, Michael Moulis, is a former FAA official with a highly checkered past that includes being suspended from practice by the Florida Supreme Court, as well as, more close to hime, sending a thuggish letter threatening extreme legal consequences including prison to this website in an attempt to persuade up to cease covering his activities.
Curiously, Moulis was also at one point Wally Hilliard's attorney. Some have speculated Moulis may have worked for the same "Company" Hilliard and Brassington did.
Founded in August 2000, Brassington’s Platinum Jet Management jet charter company launched hundreds of illegal flights without the required FAA certificate for commercial operations, netting the Brassington’s several million dollars, prosecutors said.
Sentencing was set for March 7. The endangerment count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, and the conspiracy and false statement counts carry five-year maximums, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
In addition to the criminal charges, the charter operator has been fined more than $1.86 million.
We wish the Federal Government luck in attempting to collect.