SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS SF) – A skydiving instructor in the Central Valley has been charged for running tandem parachuting instructor courses while he was suspended, including to a student who later died in a skydiving accident, federal prosecutors said.
According to acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert’s office, a federal grand jury indicted 46-year-old Robert Allen Pooley on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Court documents (.pdf) said Pooley ran a skydiving business in Acampo and was rated as a “tandem instructor-examiner” with the U.S. Parachute Association and as a “tandem examiner” with Uninsured United Parachute Technologies LLC.
Pooley was suspended by both groups in 2015 and could no longer run the training courses on his own. Prosecutors alleged that he continued to run the courses and hid from students the fact he was suspended.
Following his suspension, Pooley allegedly accepted numerous skydiving students from around the world, including Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea, with each student paying about $1,000 to $1,600.
According to prosecutors, Pooley used a digital signature of a properly-rated instructor to sign off on students’ paperwork while that instructor was out of the country.
Prosecutors said on August 6, 2016, one of Pooley’s students fell to his death in a tandem diving accident with a customer who also died.
Following the deaths, prosecutors said victims of the scheme tried get their money back from Pooley but he allegedly did not repay them. Several students paid for tandem instructor courses at other locations.
If convicted, Pooley faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count of wire fraud and a mandatory two year sentence on each count of identity theft.
Pooley was arrested on Monday, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.