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Pulling strings maybe?

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STILL determined
Dec 3, 2001
Interesting article in today's Denver Post:

Ex-United execs accused in office theft
Consultant says documents taken for Avolar project; airline rejects claim

By Dan Luzadder
Special to The Denver Post

Tuesday, August 06, 2002 - An Englewood consulting firm has accused former United Airlines executives of conspiring to steal, on United's behalf, documents that were vital for United to obtain federal certification for its controversial Avolar business jet service.

GLN Compliance Group contends that while the men were top executives for United Biz Jet Holdings, the parent of the now-defunct Avolar project, they induced three GLN employees to violate federal and local laws.

Late last week, GLN filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleging the executives used theft and deception to obtain certification software and pilot training manuals, worth about $400,000, that GLN developed.

United Airlines denied the allegations Monday.

"We normally don't comment on pending litigation," said Chris Brathwaite, spokesman for United, "but we feel compelled to say that these complaints are meritless."

He declined further comment.

The complaint cites as evidence voice mail messages left on GLN cellphones from the project's chief pilot, Jonathan Ross, directing fellow GLN employees to take specific materials from GLN's offices.
The complaint also says Federal Aviation Administration officials in Las Vegas released those proprietary GLN materials to United Airlines against GLN's wishes.

The allegations name United Biz Jet's chief operations officer, Thomas Davis, and Avolar executive Richard Wright, both of Chicago, saying they helped orchestrate the alleged thefts.
United cancelled its contract with GLN Compliance, apparently after a dispute last summer over how flight certification procedures were being handled.

United subsequently gave three GLN employees high-paying jobs with Avolar and "indemnified" the three - Ross, Robert Davidson and Robert Rowland - from civil or criminal action that might occur from their actions, according to documents obtained in the lawsuit.

The amended complaint adds detail to a contract dispute between GLN and United that was filed in federal court last November.

The new complaint raises questions of alleged executive misconduct by United executives as they struggled to launch Avolar, a fractional jet service that planned to compete with two other charter business jet services, NetJets and FlexJets.
Avolar was struggling at the time to meet certification deadlines as costs and criticism of the program mounted. Avolar planed to lease a fleet of business jets to corporations and individuals on a time-share basis.

United abandoned the Avolar project in March after spending about $250 million on it and after contracting to buy about $1 billion in business jet aircraft from Gulfstream and other aircraft manufacturers around the world. Stuart Oran, CEO of the Avolar project and a longtime executive with United, resigned from United when Avolar failed.

United recently sued business jet manufacturer Gulfstream in an attempt to recover about $50 million in deposits it placed to build a fleet of business jets for Avolar.

GLN Compliance owner Gerald Naekel - a former FAA inspector and military pilot whose company assists airlines and others obtain FAA certifications - contends that his problems with United developed after Oran and other executives tried to bypass some FAA certification rules and to "pull strings" with FAA officials.
Naekel said he refused to go along with those efforts and filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Afterwards, his relationship with United deteriorated, he said.

Denver attorney Mark Barnes of Brownstein, Hyatt and Farber is representing United and Ross in the pending federal lawsuit. He referred questions to United officials in Chicago.

Paula Ray, GLN's attorney, declined to comment.

The amended complaint contends that among those participating in the alleged conspiracy was a former senior FAA inspector, David Hobgood, who was employed by Avolar to help obtain certifications after leaving the FAA flight standards office in Detroit.
Hobgood, no longer with United, could not be reached.

Naekel said he discovered certification materials missing from his office shortly after Davidson, one of the employees who joined United, resigned suddenly from his job. He said he then discovered voice mail messages between Ross and Davidson on GLN cellphones in which Ross allegedly told Davidson what materials to take from GLN on behalf of United.

Davidson and Ross could not be reached for comment.

Police reports show that Arapahoe County Sheriff's office investigated the alleged thefts at GLN last year but turned their information over to the FBI because it appeared that the alleged thefts could involve interstate transportation of stolen materials. No criminal charges have ever been filed.

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