Thursday, June 23, 2016

Colorado man gets probation for flying unregistered plane

CHEYENNE — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a Colorado man to three years of supervised probation on a felony conviction of operating an unregistered airplane in a case stemming from the police seizure of over $250,000 cash from a Wyoming hotel room two years ago.

Scott Michael Lewis, 27, of Englewood, Colorado, had pleaded guilty in April. In sentencing him, U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne followed a federal prosecutor’s recommendation to dismiss a second charge alleging conspiracy to operate an unregistered aircraft.

Friends and family told Johnson that Lewis is working on an undergraduate degree in finance at the University of Colorado in Denver. Lewis also has been working at a hotel and has professional job prospects upon graduation, they said.

Lewis told Johnson that he’s sorry for what happened and would make certain he wouldn’t ever appear again before a criminal court.

In sentencing Lewis to probation, Johnson imposed a lengthy list of conditions, including that he not file any flight plans. The judge said he was impressed with the support that Lewis inspired from the others.

“Frankly, I think you are well on your way to rescuing yourself,” Johnson told Lewis.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming charged Lewis and co-defendant Gilbert Wayne Wiles Jr., of Denver, in January. The charges came nearly two years after authorities in Cody seized a Cessna airplane and the cash.

Wiles pleaded guilty in April to aiding and abetting the operation of an unregistered airplane. He faces between one and three years of probation at his sentencing, set for Friday.

According to court records, a worker at Yellowstone Regional Airport alerted police that the men appeared suspicious after they landed there on Feb. 27, 2014. The worker told police the pilot didn’t radio the airport before landing and sunshades were lowered over the windows even though the plane was about to be stored in a hangar.

A police officer testified earlier this year at a suppression hearing that a drug dog alerted to the plane but no drugs were found. The officer said he interpreted the dog’s actions to mean the plane had been used for transporting drugs in the past. Prosecutors say officers found the cash in a hotel room the men had rented in Cody.

As part of Lewis’ sentence, Johnson forfeited the Cessna to the federal government. Johnson said there had been little discussion at sentencing of the crime.

“It was an ongoing activity,” he said. “And it was an activity that certainly was no good.”

Original article can be found here:

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