EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An East Texas pilot has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and arson charges.
According to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Theodore Robert Wright III, 32, formerly of Kemah, Texas pleaded guilty before a judge to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson.
Wright was indicted in May 2017 along with three other men on charges of using fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, arson of property used in interstate or foreign commerce or used in an activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.
All are accused of destroying vehicles, an aircraft and vessels to profit off insurance companies. The men are accused of damaging a Lamborghini Gallardo, a yacht in Hawaii, an airplane in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, and a burned out plane in an Athens hangar.
Wright, 32, a well-known pilot in the aviation world, was arrested June 28 in Las Vegas and is being held in the Gregg County Jail along with Fosdick, 31, who was arrested in South Carolina on July 19.
Wright was forced to surrender his pilot's license and passport to authorities, records show.
At sentencing, Wright faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy count and 5 to 20 years in federal prison on the arson conspiracy count.
According to U.S. Attorney Bales, Wright and his co-conspirators, Shane Gordon, 45, of Houston, Texas, Raymond Fosdick, 41, of Houston, Texas, and Edward Delima, 41, of Honolulu, Hawaii, acquired assets and obtained insurance coverage in amounts exceeding their purchase prices. Wright and his co-conspirators then devised and carried out schemes to destroy the assets and defraud insurance companies.
The assets destroyed in the scheme included a 1966 Beechcraft Baron, a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo, a 1971 Cessna 500, and a 1998 Hunter Passage. The Beechcraft Baron made an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico, sank in deep water, and was not recovered. The Lamborghini Gallardo crashed into a ditch full of water, causing the vehicle to flood. The Cessna 500 was completely destroyed when Fosdick set it on fire at Wright's direction at an airport in Athens, Texas. The Hunter Passage sank in a marina in Hawaii. Fraudulent insurance claims were filed in relation to each of these incidents. Wright and his co-defendants also filed a fraudulent $1 million personal injury lawsuit related to the crash in the Gulf of Mexico. The suit was settled for $100,000.
Wright's co-conspirators have all pleaded guilty. In Sept. 2017, Delima pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. In Oct. 12 Fosdick pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. In Oct. 2017, Gordon pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent.
At sentencing, Delima faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Fosdick faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy count and 5 to 20 years in federal prison on the arson conspiracy count. Gordon faces up to 5 years in federal prison. Sentencing dates have not been determined.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and L. Frank Coan, Jr.