Accused plane-stealer enters guilty plea in federal court
Man faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine
BUFORD — The man accused of stealing a plane from a Florida airport and flying it 350 miles to Georgia has entered a guilty plea to a charge of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, court officials said.
Daniel Andrew Wolcott of Buford entered the plea Thursday in federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., a court representative said.
A sentencing hearing is pending. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine but his plea agreement means Wolcott likely will receive a reduced sentence, said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.
He may receive credit for spending nearly two years in jail in Gwinnett County and Wolcott will also have in the next two months a resolution hearing to determine how much he must pay back, Porter said.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will drop other charges, including a count of theft by receiving and five counts of reckless conduct in Gwinnett County and a grand theft charge by officials St. Johns County, Fla., Porter said.
On Oct. 9, 2005, Wolcott, then 22, stole a Cessna Citation 7 jet worth $ 7 million from the St. Augustine/ St. Johns County Airport in Florida.
Wolcott then flew to Gwinnett County AirportBriscoe Field, taking on a spin five friends who were unaware the plane were stolen. Although Wolcott is a commercial pilot and is licensed to fly a commercial jet, he was not rated to fly the Citation, which typically requires two pilots to fly it.
At the time, Federal Aviation Administration officials said the plane’s transponder was turned off or disabled so air traffic controllers couldn’t easily track the plane on radar as it approached the air space of Atlanta, among the world’s busiest.
No flight plan was filed and the pilot did not talk to air traffic controllers. The plane’s mysterious presence at the suburban Atlanta air field sparked terrorism concerns until Wolcott turned himself in a week after flying the plane.
The 10- passenger jet belonged to Pinnacle Air, a charter jet company based in Springdale, Ark. Company officials later flew the plane from the Georgia airfield.