Lawyer: 'Bermuda Triangle' Plane Stolen by Human Trafficker

The small Caribbean plane that vanished into thin air Monday with 11 passengers was taken by an ex-Navy cadet who was previously investigated for drug and human trafficking into the United States, according to a representative for the airline.

Luis Irizarry, a lawyer investigating the disappearance for the plane's carrier Puerto Rico Airline, said Dominican drug and immigration authorities already knew the name Adrian Jimenez when they reported the theft of the aircraft.

"They called me saying, 'We know the guy,'" Irizarry told"A couple of years ago, when they revoked his pilot's certificate, that’s the time they say he was involved in drug smuggling and alien smugglings."

Irizarry did not know whether Jimenez was charged and phone calls to aviation officials were not immediately returned.

Jimenez was training in the Dominican Republic Armed Forces as a Navy cadet before he was discharged for unlicensed flying.

His student pilot license was revoked in October 2006 because he was operating multi-engine aircraft when he was only authorized to fly helicopters. Irizarry said he was told Jimenez was also accused of misdemeanors including cheating and theft.

Irizarry said his client had the three-engine Britten-Norman Trislander flown to Santiago, D.R., for a standard test-flight by a potential buyer on Monday.

But when the Puerto Rico Airline pilot met Jimenez to test the plane, a representative from "Atlantic Airlines" started loading 11 passengers onto a Turks and Caicos-bound flight. The pilot told Jimenez he wasn’t allowed to fly the plane. Jimenez responded that Atlantic Airlines purchased the plane that morning, Irizarry said.

The plane took off about 3:30 p.m., emitted a mayday call 35 minutes into the flight and disappeared from radar off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

It is not known if the mayday was an authentic distress call or a ruse to distract immigration officials.

A report released by Dominican authorities said one of the people on board told friends her husband was waiting for her in New York, according to Irizarry.

Relatives of passengers told the Coast Guard the flight's final destination was New York, Petty Officer Barry Bena said. But the FAA had no record that that was true.

The FAA would not comment on the allegations that the missing plane was trying to smuggle humans into the United States.

Among those missing is Rosa Tavarez, 27, authorities said.

Tavarez worked as a maid in rural Dominican Republic and wanted to find a higher-paying job elsewhere in the Caribbean, acquaintance Maria Torres told reporters.

Passengers reportedly paid an $8,000 deposit on the flight and the rest of the total — $13,000 —were to be paid on arrival in the U.S.

Irizarry said Atlantic Airlines could not be reached by phone Wednesday and he suspects the company doesn't exist.

Luis Perez, the owner of the Carolina, P.R.-based Puerto Rico Airline, was asking $225,000 for the airplane. He has listed it as stolen and “written off.”

The U.S. Coast Guard called off its search Wednesday after no sign of the aircraft was found.

The plane vanished in the fabled Bermuda Triangle — in which, according to pop culture legend, planes and sea-faring vessels mysteriously vanish without a trace.

"There is no airplane wreckage found, and no fuel — maybe they disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle," Irizarry said.

A flight plan indicated that the plane took off from the Dominican Republic and was to land in the Bahamas. The Bahamas Aviation Authority said the plane never arrived.

Airport authorities also had no record of the aircraft landing in Providenciales, according to Turks and Caicos police Sgt. Calvin Chase.

Civil aviation authorities there are under fire for allowing an apparently unlicensed pilot to operate a charter flight using a stolen aircraft.

The Puerto Rico Airline pilot and another pilot who helped load the passengers onto the flight have been taken into custody.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.