WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – A former aircraft mechanic who fled to Equador after he was charged with selling stolen aircraft parts has asked a federal judge for leniency, arguing his voluntary return to the United States to face charges shows remorse and a willingness to accept responsibility for the crime.
Diego Alejandro Paz Teran is scheduled for sentencing Monday before U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on a charge of interstate transfer of stolen property. The former Cessna Aircraft Co. mechanic has admitted that for six months between 2008 and 2009, he stole aircraft parts from his employer and sold them on eBay.
His attorney, Kurt Kerns, told the court in a filing Friday that his client panicked after he was charged and fled to Ecuador with his pregnant wife and two children in the summer of 2009. He spent two years on the lam.
“He avoided the physical reality of the charges in Kansas, but he could not avoid the emotional reality – by running away from his problems instead of facing them, Mr. Teran layered another wrong on top of the others and that knowledge ate at him,” Kerns wrote.
Teran knew “the right thing to do” was contact his lawyer and make arrangements to come back to the United States, Kerns said.
His lawyer then contacted federal prosecutors with Teran's flight information and date and time of arrival. Knowing he would be arrested when he arrived on American soil, Teran boarded a plane in Equador and returned to the United States in July.
“With the knowledge that he was leaving his wife and three children in a complete state of uncertainty and anxiety, Mr. Teran came back to the United States for the sole purpose of facing the pending charges and publicly accepting responsibility so at some point, he could return to his family with a clear conscience,” his lawyer said.
Prosecutors agreed in the plea deal to dismiss a separate indictment charging him failing to appear in court, but they are seeking a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence and restitution to Cessna.
Teran's attorney asked Belot for a sentence of one year and one day, arguing it was reasonable for a first-time offender who has shown remorse for his actions and a real desire to make amends.
The amount of Cessna's loss also is a factor in sentencing because it affects the guidelines. A presentence report suggests the loss was between $200,000 and $400,000. The defense argued the value of the parts he took was between $70,000 and $120,000.