A former employee of a major U.S. airline based in Long Island City, New York was arrested and arraigned on Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering over allegations he accepted more than $1 million in bribes to divert aircraft parts orders to two companies whose owners were paying him kickbacks.
Keily Nunez, 37, of New Jersey is alleged to have fraudulently approved more than $10 million in aircraft parts orders on behalf of the airline which has only been identified by prosecutors as ‘Company 1’. Nunez’s Linkedin profile claims he worked for Long Island City-based JetBlue Airways for more than 20 years.
As a Technical Buyer, Nunez was responsible for procuring aircraft spare parts from so-called ‘after market aircraft part sellers’. Nunez would solicit quotes from various sellers in order to get the best deal for the airline. Part of the procurement process was using the services of trusted and previously used sellers.
In 2018, Nunez is accused of requesting that a company called Sumit LLC be added to the airline’s internal parts ordering system, falsely representing that Summit LLC was the same company as Summit Corp which the airline had used for parts in the past – in fact, Summit Corp has gone out of business eight years before.
Nunez is accused of authorizing purchase orders worth more than $1.5 million between the airline and Summit LLC and in return, prosecutors claim Nunez received tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the owners of Summit LLC.
Over a number of years, the fraud is alleged to have become bigger and bigger and included a second company based in Florida. In the end, the airline may have spent more than $10 million on aircraft spare parts at hugely inflated prices while Nunez and a co-conspirator received substantial kickbacks.
“As alleged, the defendants were at the helm of a corrupt scheme to defraud an airline by diverting contracts to vendors in exchange for more than $1 million in kickbacks,” commented United States Attorney Breon Peace.
The men behind Summit LLC – Julien Levy, 37, and Ivan Santos, 41, have also been arrested and arraigned, while the man behind the Florida-based company, Rominik Soni, is due to be arraigned on Wednesday.
If found guilty, the men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.