San Joaquin County Skydiver, Robert Allen Pooley Arrested for Running Unauthorized Tandem Instructor Courses
On June 10, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Robert Allen Pooley, 46, of Acampo, charging him with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft related to tandem parachuting courses.
According to court documents, in 2010, Pooley obtained ratings as a “tandem examiner” with the U.S. Parachute Association (USPA) and as a “tandem examiner” with Uninsured United Parachute Technologies LLC (UPT), a manufacturer of tandem parachute systems. He then began conducting training courses for candidates seeking to obtain their USPA Tandem Instructor rating and/or their certification to use UPT tandem parachute systems. He charged for these courses and conducted them at a skydiving business located in Acampo.
In August 2015, USPA and UPT suspended Pooley’s tandem examiner ratings and could no longer conduct the tandem instructor courses on his own. Nevertheless, he continued running USPA and UPT tandem instructor rating courses without authorization, and he concealed his suspensions from tandem instructor candidates. Pooley led students to believe they could obtain USPA and UPT tandem ratings through his courses, concealed the fact that he had been suspended, and helped students fill out USPA and UPT rating paperwork to further the impression that the students would legitimately get their tandem ratings through his courses.
As part of the scheme, Pooley used a digital image of the signature of another properly rated USPA and UPT tandem examiner to sign off on training that Pooley himself had conducted when the other tandem examiner was not even in the country. Pooley accepted numerous students in this manner in 2016 from around the world, including the Republic of Korea, Chile, New Zealand, and Mexico. Each student typically paid $1,000 to $1,600 total for these courses. On Aug. 6, 2016, one such student fell to his death in a tandem diving accident with a customer who also perished. After those deaths, numerous victims of Pooley’s scheme asked for their money back, but he did not repay them, and several students had to pay for entirely new tandem instructor courses at other locations.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher S. Hales and Katherine T. Lydon are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Pooley faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud, and a mandatory two year sentence on each count of aggravated identity theft. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.