A small Caribbean airplane that vanished into thin air Monday was allegedly stolen by a fired Dominican Navy cadet who may have been trying to carry illegal immigrants to America, the plane’s owner told FOXNews.com.
Luis Perez, the Puerto Rico-based owner of the aircraft charter company, said his twin-engine plane was stolen by an unlicensed pilot named Adrian Jimenez. Authorities told him Jimenez was a student of the Dominican Republic Armed Forces and a former Navy cadet.
“They took his pilot’s certificate away, because the only certificate he had was a helicopter rating and he was operating airplanes,” Perez told FOXNews.com.
Dominican Pilots Association president Pedro Dominguez confirmed that Jimenez had his license revoked in October 2006 and was not authorized to fly.
Luis A. Irizarry, the lawyer investigating the disappearance for Perez, said Perez's pilot flew the plane to the Turks and Caicos island of Providenciales for a test-flight by a potential buyer.
“They arrived there on Monday morning and by Monday afternoon that airplane was taken," he said. "There is no airplane wreckage found, and no fuel — maybe they disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle."
Jimenez told Perez’s pilot that the plane had already been sold to him, loaded 11 people onto what he indicated was a charter flight and took off, the lawyer told FOXNews.com.
Irizarry said a report released by Dominican authorities suggested that one of the potential immigrants on board told friends her husband was waiting for her in New York.
“The information we have is that he was planning to take these people out and he charged $26,000 for each of them," Irizarry told FOXNews.com. "I think they were illegals and they wanted to get into the U.S. … Why didn’t they take a commercial flight? Because they were trying to get in illegally.”
The FAA would not comment on the allegations that the missing plane was trying to smuggle humans into the United States. FAA spokesman Kathleen Bergen said there’s no way of knowing if the aircraft could possibly turn up in U.S. airspace.
“That would be strictly speculation. It’s really in the hands of other agencies,” she told FOX.
The U.S. Coast Guard also declined to comment.
“Our primary concern is the safety of the people regardless of the status of the plane,” said Petty Officer Barry Bena.
The plane, a Britten-Norman Trislander, was registered to Perez's company Puerto Rico Airline, based in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
A flight plan indicated that it took off from the Dominican Republic and was to land in the Bahamas. But the Bahamas Aviation Authority said the plane never arrived.
Airport authorities also had no record of the plane landing in Providenciales, according to Turks and Caicos police Sgt. Calvin Chase.
The U.S. Coast Guard called off its two-day search for the plane on Wednesday evening after it emitted a mayday and vanished from radar screens Monday.
Relatives of those on board told the Coast Guard that the passengers' final destination was New York, Petty Officer Bena said. But the FAA didn't have records indicating that was true.
Among those missing is a maid from the Dominican named Rosa Tavarez, 27, authorities said.
Acquaintance Maria Torres told reporters that Tavarez wanted to find a higher-paying job elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.