January 5, 2010
What aren't they telling us about the new owners of Huffman Aviation
the Venice Jet Center - at the Venice Municipal Airport?
The hand-picked new ownership of the FBO (Fixed Base of Operations) at the
Venice Municipal Airport has links to private military contractors in
Georgia involved in CIA extraordinary renditions around the world, as well
as other covert activity on behalf of the U.S. Government.
This same company turned over between 12-15 mid-sized regional jets to
another owner of
Huffman Aviation, Wallace J. Hilliard, ten years ago, for
Hilliard's doomed from the start “start-up airline,” an operation so inept
that on at least one publicized route, they never sold a single ticket.
The company or network of companies which has had so much involvement with
recent owners of Huffman Aviation is known variously as,
“Phoenix Air Services”
Oddly, long after his start-up airline quit flying scheduled trips, Hilliard
still had jets on the tarmacs and aprons of various airports. And he
continued to pay pilots to be ready...
Perhaps just in case.
Details of how and what we found out in a moment.
The Venice Airport FBO, which used to be called Huffman Aviation, is located
on a government utility, paid for with tax money, and without that
government utility would not exist. It is the only significant cash-flow
business at the Venice Airport.
Now, in a grab reminiscent of the so-called "privatization" of Russia during
the early 1990’s, it is about to disappear.
The return of 'Sarasota Art'
The gloves came off again recently in the mostly covert war for control of
the Venice Airport.
The flash-point, as always: who gets Art Nadel's crown jewel asset, the
Venice Airport FBO better known as Huffman Aviation?
Appointed to unravel Art Nadel's massive $400 million Ponzi fraud, Tampa
attorney Burton Wiand has been gathering, to pass on to Nadel's thousands of
victims, what few wilted daisies remain in the trampled garden that was
Sarasota Art Nadel’s company, “Scoop Management.”
Scoop had been rather cleverly disguised as a “hedge fund.”
But it may not, as popular wisdom has it, been named for the slang term for
hot stock tip.
It's name could also refer to its function, as a scoop, “hoovering” small
and loose change from entire regions of the country at once.
To no one's surprise, Nadel got a lot of help in this endeavor, from a
positively rocking wrecking crew. One sad note is that the consummate skill
displayed by these cool-headed pros in successfully tiptoe-ing away with a
very respectable $400 million dollar score may never achieve the recognition
Alas, either out of modesty, or because of some plenty hefty well-placed
bribes, to date, their names remain unknown, apparently in danger of being
lost to history.
Alas, we can hear the cynical talk starting already:
"Well, it was only $400 million."
"And, besides, this is Florida."
Here it it useful to remember what Wally Hilliard said to somebody during a
fairly recent deposition.
At one point the woman suing him looked at him across the table and asked
him if he ever worries about getting caught and having to go to jail.
Hilliard's reply, she told us later, was both enthusiastic and immediate.
"Not in Florida, baby-doll! Nobody ever goes to jail in Florida!”
"Has not been completely persuasive"
It’s impossible to miss the pain and humiliation felt by citizens of the
decent, peaceful, and entirely pleasant city of Venice, Fl. over the
unwelcome recognition their community has received because of it’s Municipal
Airport, and its links to terrorism, drug smuggling, and covert intrigue.
Disappointed city officials even wanted the town to buy the Jet Center to
get a rein on airport jet traffic. Some reckoned they might even gain a rein
on the Venice Airport itself.
(Others, it must be said, find that idea “just too naïve for words.”)
"It stinks; it smells," Earl Niemoth, a Sarasota real estate investor and
publisher who wants to buy the Jet Center, said of the announcement.
So there’s something incredibly, awfully - even suspiciously
- odd about the
behavior of Federal Receiver Burt Wiand and his steadfast determination to
visit more tribulation on the countenances of the long-suffering and
beleaguered citizenry of Venice, Florida.
In a caustic
letter faxed to city officials announcing the sale of Huffman
Aviation, Wiand couldn’t resist taking a few swipes at city officials.
"The city’s lack of good faith in this matter and the continued sending of
self-serving disingenuous letters has not been persuasive,” trilled Wiand.
He’d reached an agreement “in principle” with a buyer, Wiand informed the
“a Florida company with a lot of experience running
airport maintenance facilities.”
Ho ho! Remember that phrase:
"A Florida company with a lot of experience."'
Wiand felt free to steer the sale of the Art Nadel-owned FBO (think gas
stations for airplanes, but with slightly better bathrooms) towards… well,
towards just about anyone he damn well pleased, apparently.
And if they didn’t like it… well that was just too bad.
Before Burton Wiand got into what the unkind among us might call "the
bankruptcy dodge," he spent decades as an attorney at the SEC.
This, of course, is probably
not quite the credential one once thought.
"Rivulets of judicial wisdom dribbled down his cheek..."
City Manager Isaac Turner called Wiand’s characterizations “off base.”
Wiand spurned overtures to purchase the Jet Center from at least one other
buyer, as well as from the city of Venice itself. Amid loud protestations
from several quarters that he’d ignored other bids, he negotiated a deal and
presented it as a fait accompli.
Wiand’s actions indicated how little sympathy he possessed for the town’s
majority opinion, which wanted the Airport to slip quietly away one night
under cover of darkness.
It's called "rubbing salt in the wound."
Knowing the Venice City Council would have to approve the sale, Wiand was in
“Get over it.”
Incredibly, he was warning them: Things could get worse.
"If they don’t act nice, they’ll be dealing with Judge Lazzara,” Wiand
warned city officials though the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
He was referring to the Federal Judge overseeing the receivership, Richard
Lazzara, who has found rivers of judicial wisdom running through every
motion Receiver Burton Wiand has filed so far.
There's one thing that's extremely important to note:
The Venice city officials responsible for the mess at the airport have never
ever faced the threat of any legal consequences for standing idly by and
allowing the airport’s mission-critical FBO to fall into the hands - twice in
six years - of men involved in continuing criminal enterprise.
Aren't there any criminal sanctions for abdication of “fiduciary
While Burton Wiand, the FAA, the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the FBI, and the
Florida State Police (FDLE) have all eagerly lined up to “investigate,” on
one pretext or other, the current slate of city officials in Venice, those
same officials have tried to do the job they were elected to do: stop it
from happening yet again.
“Working to win your trust. No. Really”
The recently named buyer of the Venice Airport's FBO is “TriState Aviation
There was little if nothing to find out about TriState, which by itself is
not terribly surprising.
TriState is a company which exists only on paper.
They were less than two weeks old as a company. So the company could
probably use a little time in the bull-pen before being thrown into regular
What is surprising - and worthy of official investigation - is this:
Before the ink was dry on their incorporation papers, Tristate had received
Burton Wiand’s nod to buy the major business at the Venice Airport.
All we could do was put together a few simple questions to put to Huffman's
Aviation's hand-picked new owners. We checked the names of the three lads
listed on the company’s registration.
Then we picked up the phone and began making a few calls.
And ironically, we owe all the credit for discovering the continuing efforts
of U.S. covert agencies and their contractors to influence events at the
Venice Airport to one of TriState’s three principals.
Florida's Newest Captain of Industry
His name is Henry Paulino.
We figured him for the easiest to reach. We're lazy. And someone had sent us
the phone number where he works at Volo Aviation’s FBO at the airport in
Alas, Henry Paulino wouldn’t return our calls. He successfully avoided us,
which is a surprisingly-easy feat to accomplish, it turns out.
Then someone answering the phone at the Manassas Airport FBO got tired of
hearing us call, and encouraged us in the direction of sending Henry an
An email! Of course! Why hadn’t we thought of that?
So we sent an email to Henry Paulino, (email address firstname.lastname@example.org),
“Are you the “Henry Paulino" from this Feb. 15 2004 police report in the
Westchester County Journal News?"
Grand larceny charge: Henry Paulino, 37, of Jersey City, N.J., was arrested
Feb. 15 and charged with felony fourth-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree
criminal possession of stolen property and second-degree criminal possession
of a forged instrument.
He is accused of shoplifting about $1,600 in clothes
from Filene's department store in the Palisades Center. Police said he also
had forged identification on him. He was arraigned and sent to the county
jail without bail for future court dates.
"Henry Paulino," the paper had reported, had been 37 when he was arrested
for felony grand larceny, possession of stolen property, and possession of a
forged instrument, etc.
And there are, of course, lots and lots of Henry Paulino's. Chances are, the
ages don't match.
Did Henry Paulino, about to become an owner of a multi-million dollar
operation that is a tax-payer funded public utility get busted shoplifting
$1,600 in clothes from a Filene's Department store?
While carrying multiple bogus identifications?
There's no telling. Certainly we don’t know.
We haven’t heard back from him.
"All things come to those that wait"
But...we don't recall hearing anything about a company called "airproperty"
in the Venice Airport FBO deal.
Why was Henry Paulino’s email address at something called “airproperty.net?”
Who were they?
Although airproperty does not appear to have any real existence as a
company, the company which owns the registered
the "airproperty" domain
It's called "Airside Investors.”
And Airside Investors is slightly famous. The company
owned a Gulfstream I (below enclosure),
it was revealed in 2006, that was flying daily flights off the coast of
Bush White House itself
(below enclosure) gave the green light for the inclusion of funds
for the plane's acquisition in the federal budget last year.
El Nuevo Herald (Miami, Florida)
October 25, 2006 Wednesday
A new airline aims to break the
information blockade on Cuba
RUI FERREIRA El Nuevo Herald
First it was Radio Marti and TV Marti later we now have Aero Martí.
The latest addition to the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) is a
modern twin-engine Gulfstream G-1, through which it intends to
Cubans on the island the impact of the baseball World Series, and
initiate broadcasts schedule star of television programming that
U.S. government entity.
With the device, whose inaugural flight departed yesterday from Key
West, the federal government seeks to avoid electronic interference
that the government of the island has remained continuously against
transmissions, since it debuted in the early 90s.
''The transmission from
this modern, fully equipped aircraft is a timely effort to that
TV Marti can fulfill its mission to break the information
blockade of the Cuban dictatorship, providing the Cuban people
live accurate and objective news and high quality programming at
this crucial moment in its history,'' said CBO director, Pedro
Roig, in a discreet ceremony in Key West, according to a press
The device is in the service of
OCB, as a rental agreement of flight hours with a company called
Phoenix Air, and will fly six days a week in prime time between 6 pm
and 11 pm. Roig said El Nuevo Herald for the first time, this
aircraft has an ability to do live broadcasts, unlike the previous
aerial platform he was only able to deliver recorded programming.
The hiring of an aircraft for the emissions of OCB was a process
that dragged on over five years, and involved many negotiations
in Congress, where the departments of State and Defense vied for
the use of previous aerial platform, a Hercules C -130 called
Commando Solo ''ownership'' of the Pentagon.
OCB finally achieved the task of obtaining a plane himself after
the White House gave the green light to the inclusion of funds
for its acquisition, in the federal budget last year.
Initially the idea was to buy a plane, but ultimately opted to rent
OCB flight hours in the current apparatus, with a view to achieving
in the near future, renting a second device.
''Our budget [additional] $
10 million allowed us to not only get the equipment on board the
plane, but also rent flight hours, including a second flight
soon,'' said Roig.
The annual two-aircraft
operation transmitters cost $ 5 million to taxpayers.
According to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the start of
daily broadcasts in primetime and the rental of the aircraft,
"was a promise from
Bush that, with your help, we
could include in the budget. The timing could not be more
auspicious for this new technology to break the information
blockade of 'the Cuban tyranny'.''
Under international law, the
Gulfstream espacio aéreo should fly within the U.S., where capture
satellite signals emitted by TV Marti and become a signal of UHF for
the island. In the past, the Cuban government has complained that
''made" Commando Solo broadcasts from international waters adjacent
to Cuban airspace, but gave no details of their complaint.
In the plane - which curiously is registration N820CB match the year
that Ronald Reagan administration approved the creation of
Radio Martí and the initials of the Federal agency that brings
together the transmissions to the island - have been installed 4
television transmitters. A total of 4,500 watts of power.
The spectrum of their emissions are mostly oriented towards the
western part of Cuba, reported
What was it doing there?
If you answered "beaming Spanish language soap
operas (non-communist TV) to a grateful Cuban nation," you probably are a
Cuban in Miami, or work for the national Republican Party, or both.
The resulting bad publicity mostly fell on the broad shoulders of Phoenix
Air, which by now is used to bad publicity.
The company has a lucrative sideline doing CIA renditions. Read all about it
On Florida incorporation documents, Phoenix Air's address is on the Navy's
Key West Base.
And Phoenix Air, Phoenix Air Group, is where Wally Hilliard got all those Jetstreams.
And as for the Navy's Key West facility, alert readers may even recall that
Mohamed Atta his-ownself used to hang out there some.
Over two decades of operation, this little government fiasco cost more than
$500 million. The airplane part of the deal was a relative steal at $5-10
million a year.
The other problem with this otherwise admirable gravy train?
Nobody watches it.
So what was one of the principals of brand spanking new TriState Aviation,
Henry Paulino of Airside Investors, doing hanging out (leasing a plane) to a
notorious private military contractor like Phoenix Air?
We may find out... someday.
But not, we fear, till long after TriState
Aviation takes over the FBO and gets comfortably ensconced behind the desk
out at the Venice Municipal Airport.
No socks, no shirt, no corporate logo
TriState Aviation’s biggest selling point?
The company hasn’t been around long enough to have a corporate history.
Less to know. Less to worry about...
Wiand’s statement - that he was selling the facility to “a Florida company
with a lot of experience running airport maintenance facilities - ” may not be
a complete lie.
But its far from being the truth.
But he should at least release something saying that statement is no longer
TriState probably doesn’t have a corporate logo, or even a motto.
Is this just sloppy tradecraft? That they didn't at least register the dummy
company six months in advance borders on being insulting. Maybe even crosses
Whatever you want to say about Wally Hilliard, his Wisconsin medical
insurance company at least had a really cool corporate motto that was
tongue-in-cheek droll too...
“Love God, Hate Sin, and Back the Pack!”
What TriState Aviation does have
Marty Kretchman was gamely - and even winningly - trying to keep his story
straight. Kretchman said the ownership of his company includes private
investors whose names he refuses to disclose.
And he reiterated that the hangars under dispute will have to be built where
they are designated on Nadel's plans.
But we shouldn’t let that little things like offshore ownership and
non-transparency keep us all from being friends...
"We're trying to be very transparent about this," Kretchman said. "We're
just a bunch of guys who loved airplanes as kids."
In a letter to Venice’s citizen-journalist and watchdog
John Patten, he
“TriState Aviation Group LLC. is comprised of myself Brian Ciambra and Henry
“Collectively, we have over 40 years of combined experience owning and
operating Fixed Base Operations, including the management and structuring of
the Volo Aviation chain of FBO's across the country.”
One question we’d like to hear someone ask Marty, just for the record, is:
“Pardon me… But which FBO was it that y’all claim to have owned, and when?”
Don't get us wrong. We're big fans.
Marty Kretchman is totally smooth enough to have a future in successful
“Brian has more recently served as the Vice President of Operations for Volo
Aviation, an FBO venture of Merrill Lynch,” he said.
Alas, Volo Aviation isn’t an FBO venture of Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch
doesn’t have an “FBO venture.”
Marty Kretchman's boss, however, does have an FBO venture. And its partially
funded by Merrill Lynch. But its not their deal.
It's Kretchman's boss’s deal. Maybe his boss asked him: See if you can keep
my name out of the papers.
For the moment at least, we’ll respect his anonymity, too.
It's a topic we can always come back and revisit.
“The New American Drug Lords”
When 75-year-old Arthur G. Nadel was arrested for running a huge Ponzi
scheme which looted almost $400 million from investors, it marked the second
time this decade that an owner of what used to be called Huffman Aviation
has been implicated in major crimes normally associated with the Mafia.
Ponzi schemes, of course, are a trademark Mob specialty. So is heroin
While 78-yr old Wallace J. Hilliard owned Huffman Aviation, and
took flying lessons there, DEA Agents busted Hilliard’s Learjet while it was
carrying 43 lbs. of heroin on July 25, 2000 at Orlando Executive Airport.
Terrorist HIJACKERS, heroin trafficking, hundred million dollar Ponzi
How many small towns with barely ten thousand
people “boast” a tiny local airport whose major business is owned by a
heroin trafficker disguised as a flight school owner who plays host to
terrorist hijackers, and then later is sold through to a piano playing patsy
who fronts a massive $400 million Ponzi scheme?
"The New American
is the latest
the myth that 'there
are no American drug lords' controlling access
to the world's richest
and most lucrative drug market.