[Editor’s Note: We received this article from a Florida Wing member. Thank you for your contribution. Some names have been redacted by request of those involved.]
A statement of events was shared with Florida Wing headquarters regarding a flight in which [Redacted] violated several FAA regulations and endangered the life of a cadet in the plane and several others on the ground. His actions included low over-flight of highly populated areas, and “high-performance takeoffs” and aerobatic maneuvers that could’ve led to loss of control and total destruction of life and property. N995CP’s air-frame was over-stressed past its operating limitations and is still being operated today.
Maj Michael Croteau learned about this a few months later and encouraged the cadet to come forward about this, despite threats Capt [Redacted] had directed to the cadet about telling others about the flights. Maj Croteau was the Incident Commander of 14-T-7210, a SAR training exercise that took place over two days in Group 6. The flights discussed were relocation flights from Opa Locka to Lantana, and vice-versa. When Maj Croteau informed then-Maj John Clark of the allegations, Clark tried to stop the process of grounding [Redacted].
As incident commander, Maj Croteau overrode Clark and sent in a letter to wing HQ calling for the grounding of [Redacted]. In retaliation, Maj Clark issued the cadet a notice of grounding for allowing an aircraft to descend below 500 feet, even though the cadet involved wasn’t the pilot of the airplane, as shown by flight records. Capt [Redacted] sent several threatening text messages to Maj Croteau, then subsequently resigned from the CAP.
In March 2015, the cadet reportedly received an email from Lt Col Jorge Del Rio, who claimed he was investigating the circumstances of 14-T-7210. He harassed the cadet over several phone calls asking for information, warning the cadet that he was a highly-qualified investigator and a government agent.
He informed me I was banned from speaking with Maj Croteau, who was also the cadet’s squadron commander at the time. Additionally, he informed the cadet that the cadet was required to meet with him in Lakeland, FL, at his own discretion of date and time, and that the cadet’s parents had spoken with him already.
When questioning the cadet’s parents about this meeting, they said, “Who is this Del Rio guy?”
They say they never spoke with any CAP investigator. In many of the calls, Lt Col Del Rio also referred to himself as the Southeast Region IG and also the Assistant National Headquarters’ IG. A few weeks later, after another harassing phone call, the cadet snapped and informed Del Rio that the cadet believed he [Del Rio] was the “most incompetent investigator I ever spoken with,” and that a background search on him showed that he was just a guard employed with the Florida Department of Corrections.
Lt Col Del Rio instantly became apologetic, and informed the cadet that he is the man “sent in when terminations are at play.” He was sent by Col Irizarry, the Florida Wing Commander, not to investigate [Redacted], but to find grounds for the membership termination for Maj Croteau. That same week, he told Maj Croteau the exact same story, except he was finding grounds for the cadet’s termination.
At the 2015 Florida Wing Conference, sources tell News of the Force, the cadet confronted Col Irizarry in person regarding the cadet’s grounding and then threatened to make the cadet’s grounding permanent and even to terminate the cadet’s membership if the cadet spoke to anyone about the colonel’s involvement. Several IG complaints were subsequently filed, but none were investigated, and the cadet still remains grounded. Attempts to reach the cadet involved were not successful.
Other sources have confirmed that during the 2015 Florida Wing Conference, a well-known, senior cadet (reportedly a Spaatz cadet) alleged he was sexually molested by [Redacted] during a CAP weekend activity. The cadet was approached by Col Irizarry, the Wing Commander, who was shown pictures and text messages – sexual in nature – that were being sent to the cadet from [Redacted].
Col Irizarry reportedly thoroughly scolded the cadet for going forward with this and not reporting it earlier. After being pressured by other Florida Wing members, Col Irizarry finally called the CAP’s National Counsel and informed him of only a “boundary concern.” He never informed the National Counsel of the sexual assault, the sources say.
Col Irizarry refused to report the allegations to the counsel or to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Col Irizarry endangered the safety of hundreds of cadets by allowing an alleged pedophile to stay at an overnight CAP activity. We can only imagine how parents would react if they found out that a wing commander endangered their children by allowing a manipulative pedophile to stay at the activity overnight, essentially allowing them to be “on the menu” for this monster.
As a result, anonymous calls came in from other cadets who fell victim to [Redacted]. [Redacted] once shared with a source that he had inter-course with a male cadet during a Florida Wing encampment. Again, [Redacted] remained an active CAP member for several weeks after Col Irizarry was made aware of the allegations.
It wasn’t until Maj Croteau reached out the general counsel and informed of him of the molestation. The general counsel confirmed that Col Irizarry never made any report of physical sexual assault regarding [Redacted]. That same day, Rodriguez was suspended pending an investigation.
During a phone call with Maj Croteau, Lt Col Clark instructed him to not believe any CPPT (Cadet Protection Policy) complaint made by a cadet. Lt Col Clark also verbally abused Major Croteau and threatened retaliation within 30 days of the call. Exactly 30 days later, Lt Col Clark was transferred to a Florida Wing deputy chief of staff position.
Maj Croteau’s wife, Lily Croteau, was suspended without cause or investigation for six months. The suspension was not official. Maj Croteau was also limited from participating with any local squadrons in retaliation. Maj Croteau told us that his membership in the CAP expires next month, and neither he or his wife are renewing. He also said that in the last year he and his wife had spent $12,000 of their own money on CAP business; the year before, he said, it was $15,000.
Sources told NOTF that under Col Irizarry’s “tyranny,” there are approximately 20 or more Florida Wing personnel that are grounded from flight status. “With two aircraft crashes in the past two months, the CAP’s commitment to safety protocols really is brought into question,” one source said.
It’s disturbing to think that two Florida Wing aircraft have been found to have malfunctions in the last two months that are yet to be addressed. One of them has an ELT that has been expired for several years. Another has logbooks that have been filled out incorrectly, while another one frequently misses maintenance work and inspections. In fact, the aircraft has flown past its every-50 hours inspection with no action so far.
How many crashes will it take for National Headquarters to step in?
How can we expect our pilots to be safe and prevent accidents when we have a tyrant Wing Commander who grounds individuals left and right for his own retribution purposes?