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Charter jet exec gets probation in fraud case

A former executive of a Florida charter jet company whose plane crashed at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport in 2005 was sentenced to probation Tuesday, months after his testimony helped convict two of the company's co-founders of fraud and lying to authorities.

Joseph Singh was director of charters for now-defunct Platinum Jet Management, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that flew high-end clients like Duran Duran, Keith Richards and Jay-Z who paid as much as $85,000 per flight.

Singh pleaded guilty to fraud in 2009 and admitted using unqualified pilots to fly the charters. He had faced up to five years in prison. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh sentenced him to a year's probation and ordered him to pay $200,000 in restitution.

The government investigated Platinum after one of its planes crashed on takeoff at Teterboro in February 2005, slamming into a warehouse and injuring 20 people.

Prosecutors charged that Singh, co-founders Michael and Paul Brassington and several others were part of a conspiracy to skirt safety regulations in the pursuit of profit.

Although none of the defendants was charged with causing the Teterboro crash, Michael Brassington was convicted in December of endangering the safety of an aircraft for, in the government's view, deliberately understating his planes' weights in a scheme to save money by loading up on cheap fuel at airports like Teterboro.

Experts testified that the plane crashed because its center of gravity was too far forward, the result of carrying too much fuel. Defense attorneys disputed that, and offered testimony from the pilot and co-pilot, who said the plane's steering mechanism malfunctioned during takeoff.

Singh testified against the Brassingtons, who face sentencing next month. Two other Platinum employees pleaded guilty and await sentencing; charges were dropped against a sixth defendant.

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