Crime - Sacto 911

Man accused of posing as helicopter pilot pleads guilty to identity theft

A man accused of repeatedly posing as a helicopter pilot and flying at least once for KCRA Channel 3 pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to aggravated identity theft.

John Michael Dial, 58, of Skaneateles, N.Y., used names of actual people to commit violations of federal law, such as providing false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration and forgery of a U.S. passport, according to court documents.

From Dec. 16, 2009, to Aug. 4, 2010, Dial was hired as a television news helicopter pilot and operated helicopters in the Bay Area without a pilot’s license, according to a plea agreement cited in a federal Department of Justice news release.

In June 2011, in order to work for an air ambulance service in Susanville, Dial provided numerous false identification documents and knowingly made false statements about his identity. These statements concerned matters under the jurisdiction of the FAA and were relevant because they prevented the FAA from knowing the true identity of a pilot operating an aircraft in the United States, authorities said. Had the FAA known Dial’s true identity, it would have discovered that he had previously been convicted of making false statements to the FAA regarding his medical certificate and student pilot certificate.

From July 3 to Nov. 7, 2011, Dial operated a helicopter approximately 63 times, without having a valid pilot certificate.

On March 14, 2012, Dial was hired under his real name to work as a television news helicopter pilot in Sacramento. He submitted a fraudulent FAA Temporary Airman Certificate under his real name, and an FAA Medical Second Class Certificate, also under his real name. Dial flew for the station two times without having a valid pilot certificate, authorities said.

At the time of Dial’s arrest in July 2013, a Sacramento Bee story cited court documents saying he had flown for KCRA at least once in 2012.

According to the plea agreement, Dial used the identity of a former co-worker to gain employment with an air ambulance service in New York. He also created a fraudulent U.S. passport using that person’s identity.

On April 8, 2012, Dial was stopped by a Cascade, Idaho, police officer and gave police a fraudulent Vermont driver’s license. He was cited for driving without a license and told to not drive his vehicle. Shortly afterward, he was spotted driving away from the scene. When Dial was stopped again, police learned that his true name likely was John M. Dial and that he had two outstanding felony arrest warrants in Washington state.

After being read his rights, Dial admitted to police that his name was John Michael Dial and that he obtained the Vermont driver’s license approximately 12 years ago by providing fictitious information. He said he did this to avoid apprehension for two felony warrants.

During a search of Dial’s vehicle, two wallets were located. In one was information relating to John M. Dial, including a California driver’s license. In the other wallet were documents relating to the identity theft victim and a second fraudulent Vermont driver’s license.

Dial is to be sentenced Aug. 14 by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.

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