WAILUKU– A former Kihei Civil Air Patrol pilot and Hawaii vice wing commander who forged a document to give himself credentials to fly youths was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and denied a chance to keep a forgery conviction off his record.
Eduardo Zayas, 62, also was placed on one year’s probation as part of his sentence imposed Friday.
With Zayas offering no explanation for what he did, 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said the court was left with the interpretation of some Civil Air Patrol members, including the longtime pilot whose signature was forged.
“During the time Ed Zayas was part of the Civil Air Patrol, he didn’t really want to follow regulations,” Capt Jack Dixon, a Civil Air Patrol check pilot and 35-year member, said in court Wednesday. “Ed always seemed like he wanted to make his own regulations.”
Originally charged with felony second-degree forgery, Zayas had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree forgery, a misdemeanor. A plea agreement between the defense and prosecution called for no jail for Zayas, who is also known as Eduardo Zayas-Quinones.
Dixon’s forged signature was on a Civil Air Patrol pilot flight evaluation form that listed a Nov 11, 2013, date for the check flight.
On the forged form, Zayas filled in boxes, including one indicating he was qualified to fly youths or cadets on orientation flights, said Deputy Prosecutor Johann Smith.
“He apparently got help or assistance from his wife to get the form certified and included in his file,” Smith said Friday.
He said Zayas “created the real possibility he would be qualified to fly cadets, when he lacked the real experience and training that would make him so qualified.”
While defense attorney William Sloper asked the judge to find that Zayas was a good candidate to have the conviction kept off his record, Smith opposed the request.
“It is likely that he is going to engage in this conduct again,” Smith said. “His excuse is that he lost the original form and made a mistake on the replacement form he created. He had nothing to say about his wife’s involvement or how he used her to submit the form through less than the usual route.
“He did admit he forged the signature, that’s clear. But there’s more going on here. There’s something a little more nefarious.”
Zayas, a military veteran, started a Civil Air Patrol cadet squadron in Kihei about five years ago before being appointed vice commander of the organization’s Hawaii wing in late 2013.
After members of the Kahului-based Maui Composite Squadron HI-057 raised issues about operations under Zayas, the Civil Air Patrol plane used for hurricane and tsunami warnings was removed for maintenance from Kahului Airport, where it had been stationed for decades. It wasn’t returned until a year later in March. The Kahului squadron was dismantled last August on the day Hurricane Iselle hit the islands.
Afterward, the Kihei squadron started by Zayas took over the building at Kahului Airport that Kahului squadron members had spent time and money on to improve over the years.
“Because of the actions Ed had taken, myself and my family were victims,” Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col Bobby Hill said in court Wednesday, when Zayas was originally scheduled to be sentenced.
Hill, who had been commander of the Kahului-based squadron, said he was relieved of his command and demoted, then involuntarily transferred to a Civil Air Patrol cadet squadron at Maryknoll High School on Oahu.
“There’s a lot of people that are held to a higher standard in society,” Hill said. “Having our paperwork proper… not doing illegal things – that’s what we need to do for the safety of ourselves and others.”
He said giving Zayas a chance to keep the conviction off his record “would not be right.”
Dixon, a Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight instructor, said he had given Zayas a check ride about two years ago. About three months later, “we noticed he had signed himself off to be able to fly cadets,” Dixon said.
“At no time did I sign the form for him to be able to fly with the kids,” Dixon said. “Maui is one of the most dangerous airports in the world in relation to wind. We have had small airplanes blown over upside down by the wind, just waiting to take off. Ed has only a small amount of flight time.”
In addition, Dixon said members learned that Zayas had been flying without a medical certification for about a year.
Dixon and Civil Air Patrol Lt Col Randal Leval said Zayas reported having diabetes and hypertension.
Dixon, who has about 8,000 hours of flight time and has done more than 1,000 flights with cadets, said he has had youths get sick in the airplane and even grab the yoke to turn the airplane sideways.
“I don’t think Ed is up to the stress of having this take place,” Dixon said.
After he filed the forgery complaint against Zayas, Dixon said: “I was basically excommunicated from the Civil Air Patrol.”
“I was placed on the black list,” he said. “I wasn’t able to fly. This past week, I was able to take my first check ride in about two years.”
Dixon and Leval said Zayas hadn’t used the forged credentials to actually fly cadets in the Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182 plane.
“It’s just lucky that we caught his forgery in time, that he wasn’t able to go and execute any flights with children that we’re entrusted by their parents,” said Leval, a mission pilot and past commander with more than 40 years in the Maui Civil Air Patrol squadron.
Zayas’ sentencing was delayed until Friday after Sloper said the defense needed time to refute letters from Civil Air Patrol members who said Zayas shouldn’t be allowed to keep the conviction off his record.
Given the chance to speak in court Friday, Zayas said, “I do not wish to make a statement.”
In March, Col Brian Bishop, commander of the Pacific Region of the Civil Air Patrol, said Zayas was no longer a member. In April, Col John Henry Felix was named interim Hawaii wing commander, replacing Col. Jeff Wong, who had dismantled the Kahului squadron.
Smith said that if Zayas was granted a chance to keep the conviction off his record, the “worst-case scenario” would result if he got involved with another organization and succeeded in getting flight credentials.
“Then he would be putting many lives in his hands, putting many people at risk,” Smith said.
“He faked his flight credentials and society does not benefit when people are permitted to lie about their flying abilities,” Smith said. “Society would not benefit by letting the defendant off without a record.”
Bissen said that when people claim to have an award they didn’t win, “they’re really just making a fool of themselves.”
“Everyone knows that’s not something that’s earned,” the judge said. “It’s a sign of entitlement or arrogance, really.”
In denying Zayas’ request to keep the conviction off his otherwise clean record, Bissen said, “I cannot make the finding, in good conscience, that he is unlikely to re-offend by the simple fact that he’s not really admitting what happened or offering any explanation.”
Because Zayas has since moved out of state, the conviction on his record will allow others to “at least be aware the lengths he will go to to try to make himself be someone he is not,” Bissen said.