FBI Arrests Student Pilot


FBI Arrests Student Pilot

August 9, 2001, a student pilot who once staged his own disappearance from Nevada and most recently worked at a Pizza Hut near   Marathon's airport in the Florida Keys stole a single-engine plane Tuesday and crash-landed it near Havana, Cuba walking       away dazed, authorities said. Reese a pizza delivery man stole the Cesna 150 aircraft flew it to Cuba crashed-landed on the beach of Havana, returned Wednesday afternoon to the United States -- where he was promptly arrested by FBI agents.

Reese, 55, smiling, held out his hands to be handcuffed at Miami International Airport. Later, he asked the agents for a meal. No pizza, please.  ``He said he was hungry,'' said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela. Reese wore his Pizza Hut uniform on the flight to Cuba, but returned in clothing obtained on the island. Reese was driven to the Federal Detention Center in Miami by FBI agents Carlos Cintron and Phil Crouch. He'll have a hearing this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert L. Dubé. ``We're still investigating why he took the plane to Cuba,'' Orihuela said. 

In radio transmissions with his flight instructor, Reese said he panicked at the controls. The FBI charged Reese with interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. He also faces grand theft charges in Monroe County for taking a Cessna 172 from Paradise Aviation, a flight school at the Marathon airport. If convicted, he could face 15 years in prison. On Wednesday, the Cuban government allowed Reese to leave after officials determined he did not have political motivations when he crashed landed on a beach near Havana on July 31.


Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Reese arrived in Cuba ``really by mistake, by an accident which fortunately did not lead to the loss of human life . . . we gave him the proper treatment, medical and otherwise, and all the facilities to return to the United States.'' Susan Reese, the pilot's wife, has told authorities that her husband is manic-depressive and is probably off his medication. Reese spent his time in Cuba at a naval hospital in Cojímar, nursing minor injuries suffered when he crash-landed on the rocky beach, causing the Cessna to flip over. Consular officials from the U.S. Interests Section later arranged for his stay at a hotel until his return could be arranged. Reese was escorted to Terminal 2 of the José Martí International Airport by three plainclothes Cuban officials.

 ``They treated me like a king,'' said Reese, who carried a copy of Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, under his arm. The Cubans placed Reese aboard a scheduled Gulfstream International Airlines charter flight to Miami. He was one of about 10 passengers aboard the 19-seat Beech 1900. He flew unescorted -- which troubled fellow passengers.  ``Let me tell you, I'm very upset this man was allowed to travel on a plane like that after what he did,'' said Angel Infante, of Hialeah. During the short flight, less than one hour, Infante said Reese left his seat and walked to the cabin area to talk to the pilot. ``It was very unnerving for those of us on the plane,'' Infante said. ``What if he decided to do the same thing?''

Back in Havana, Foreign Minister Pérez Roque said the Cessna will soon be returned to the U.S., but did not say when.  ``The plane, or what remains of the plane, will be returned in its entirety to the United States, down to the last screw,'' Pérez Roque told foreign reporters.

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