The new owner? "Donna Blue Aircraft" a corporation recently registered in South Florida to two Brazilians.Link | Link to MP3
[Reporter Kevin] HALL: one of these mailboxes-are-us type of business.
Donnablueaircraft dot com was registered just ten days before they bought the plane So is this just a Front Company? Investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker visited Donna Blue’s listed address… He found an empty office suite, a blank sign, and six unmarked police cruisers parked in front.
[Investigative journalist Daniel] HOPSICKER: It’s a phony front company.
Exactly who these Brazilians are is a whole 'nuther story.
HOPSICKER: Non-US citizens are not allowed to own N-Numbered Planes…and…neither one of these guys appears to be a US Citizen.
HALL: he didn’t check either box as to whether he was a US citizen.
After just two weeks, the plane was sold again in another mysterious transaction. The only evidence for this is an anomalous bill of sale with the name of the new owner: “Clyde O’Connor” He’s a well-known guy around Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.
HALL: I had the sense they seemed to have known more about him than they were letting on, he seems to be a veteran around that area, who’s got a bit of a checkered past.
O’Connor’s been involved in at least two plane crashes and he was cited for Criminal Air Safety Violations in 2001.
[Florida reporter Bob] NORMAN: He’d gone through bankruptcies, a divorce, he’s a chronic traffic offender.
Florida reporter [and Blogger @ the Broward Palm Beach New Times] Bob Norman tried to track down O’Connor.
NORMAN: He’s a slippery guy, … and where the money’s coming from, I think that’s a big question.
Kevin Hall was wondering about O’Connor’s money too.
HALL: …seems to own a $450,000 house, so he seems to be doin pretty well even though his businesses are going bad
He has two corporations registered in his name, but they’re run out of Post Office Boxes and their phones are disconnected. Bob went looking for O’Connor at Ft. Lauderdale executive airport. He just missed him.
NORMAN: I don’t know why he was there but it was the talk of the airport.
So Bob reported he had been seen around the Ft Lauderdale airport days after the crash. The same day his story came out, O’Connor left the country in a hurry. He flew to Canada and was arrested right away for lying about the guns in his bag. Then, he paid several thousand dollars to get his plane back and then flew it to the Azores. He still doesn’t appear to be under investigation for any wrongdoing, despite being the cocaine plane’s owner of record. This really gets Bob Norman’s goat…
NORMAN: This is a trail that needs to be investigated, Clyde O’Connor needs to be investigated.
And according to the bill of sale… He was the lawful owner of the plane.
SLACK: Even though the paperwork may not be on record and filed, presumptive ownership transfers on the date of sale.
There’s another big question about Clyde…
ROOT: Who actually piloted the plane out of the US was it Mr. O’Connor, who wasn’t certified?…
So did he fly it illegally or did someone else fly it? And also: who gave O’Connor the money to buy the plane? According to the Brazilian owner, O’Connor was buying the plane on behalf of someone else… Then who’s he buying it for? There was another name on the bill of Sale: Greg Smith, the only person involved in the deal not to have left the country. So Dan Hopsicker tried to get his side of the story,
HOPSICKER: The pilots aren’t talking to the press so I asked someone who I know does business with the two pilots to call and Greg Smith blurted out ‘it was Don’s money’…
That’s Don Whittington, a convicted drug smuggler, tax evader and champion race car driver.
Several of his planes were named in investigations of the CIA rendition program but we’ll get back to him later. So What do we know so far…Weve got a crashed drug plane in Mexico…It’s got a history of government use…It changes hands twice in a couple weeks before crashing…
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects