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A Mexican businessman with connections to the plane that crashed with Jenni Rivera and six others onboard Sunday has been convicted of falsifying aircraft records, counterfeiting government inspection stamps, and drug-trafficking charges, according to court records.
ABC News first broke the news of Christian E. Esquino Nuñez’s ties to the company whose jet crashed near Monterrey, Mexico, killing Rivera and all others on the aircraft.
Nuñez also owes millions of dollars in state and federal taxes, as well as an undisclosed amount to the norteño band Los Tigres del Norte, according to records examined by Univision News.
Mexico’s Secretary of Communications and Transportations identified the plane as a Lear Jet belonging to Nevada-based company Starwood Management, of which Nuñez heads business activities. Now, in wake of the crash, Nunez may be forced to answer questions from authorities and investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) as they examine what caused the crash.
The Huffington Post also reported Monday, citing the NTSB, that the Lear Jet in question was involved in one previous accident in 2005. The incident occurred when the jet struck a runway marker while attempting to land at an airstrip near Amarillo, Texas. The report describes a malfunction with the fuel system in the wings, which caused one side of the plane to experience a loss of balance.
Also in 2005, Nuñez and his partner Lance Z. Ricotta were convicted by a federal grand jury on charges of “creating false and fictitious logbooks” for six aircraft that Nuñez purchased from the Mexican government and sold to U.S. buyers. According to the court documents, Nuñez altered important records regarding the aircraft’s overall condition, total operating hours, and a history of maintenance and inspection, to sell the planes at significant mark-ups.
The jet in which Rivera was flying Sunday was not, however, included in the 2005 lawsuit.
A decade prior to his 2005 charges, for which he was sentenced to 24 months in prison and later deported to Mexico, Nuñez was indicted in Florida on drug trafficking charges. In 1993, he pled guilty to conspiring to conceal from the Internal Revenue Service and was sentenced to five years in prison.
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