Fake Pilot Who Fled Before Sentencing Arrested
4 June 2013, 13:48 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
A conman from Hampshire, who went on the run after being convicted of fraud, has been arrested in Winchester.
US national Michael Fay, 61, from Alton, had pleaded guilty to fraudulently working as a commercial airline pilot, flying passengers into Gatwick Airport with a Libyan airline without the proper licence and medical documentation on eight occasions.
But before his sentencing at Winchester Crown Court on 3 May 2013 the former US Air Force pilot fled firstly to Qatar, then Germany and finally Ireland using another passport before he decided to come back and face justice.
Fay handed himself in at Winchester Police station last night after a month on the run and he had contacted authorities to say he would do so.
He appeared again at Winchester Crown Court where the judge, Keith Cutler said: "At last you are back to face the music."
The judge heard that the sentencing judge, Recorder Frank Abbott, had given Fay less credit for his guilty plea because he had fled on the day of sentencing and so judge Cutler halved the sentence from two months to one month for breaching his bail because there had already been "an element of punishment".
Police were alerted to Fay's scam when another pilot became suspicious while chatting to him on an internet forum.
He had been operating Airbus A320 aircraft for eight months on behalf of Libyan company Afriqiyah Airways at the time of his arrest on 3 February 2011, having forged his pilot's licence and medical certificates.
Police feared at the time he had fled the UK and might seek work as a pilot or flying instructor in another country and Fay's details were flashed across the world.
His defence barrister Peter Binder said he client suffered from ill health and high blood pressure.
"He accepts failing to attend. He had a conference with me on the 1st of May, at that stage there was every indication he would attend for sentencing on the 3rd of May,'' Mr Binder explained.
"But knowing he was going to prison, he had what is best described as a complete failure of nerve.
"He emailed me in the early hours of the 3rd of May saying he had left the jurisdiction and I informed the court that day and he was sentenced in absentia.
"He emailed me on the 11th of May that he intended to return - he had done the wrong thing. He was in a jurisdiction that needed an exit visa but in due course he was granted that exit permission and he returned a week ago and he surrendered himself yesterday by appointment. He panicked and he ran away but he has now returned.''
Detective Constable Chris Thorne from Hampshire police said outside court:
"It's good he has returned to face justice - he put people's safety in jeopardy. People in a plane to need to know that the guy at the front is qualified and in good health.''
When Fay had disappeared DC Thorne said:
"Michael Fay is a clever and resourceful man who clearly shows no concern for public safety if he's willing to work without the correct licences and medical certification.
"He targeted Libyan aviation at a time when the country's political and economic standing was vulnerable and volatile.
"Had it not been for the quick-thinking of a genuine pilot on the internet forum, Fay may have continued to put the public at risk in this manner unnoticed."
Fay worked for Afriqiyah Airways from 1 June 2010 to the day of his arrest on 3 February 2011.
He will serve 18 months and two weeks of his sentence before he will be released.