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Flight-school owner sought for theft

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Posted: Nov 6, 2010 11:56 AM
Source: Associated Press

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Topics: flight, school, owner, theft

A man who allegedly owes more than $250,000 from a helicopter-flight school he operated at the Houma airport is on the run.

Saturday's Courier reported that a Terrebonne Parish grand jury in August concluded there was not enough evidence to try Clyde Jewett, of Miami, on a racketeering charge. He was accused of scheming to collect $92,000 in upfront fees from 10 Terrebonne students at Johnston Flying Services, and tens of thousands more from area businesses, then shutting down before providing the services.

Jewett's lawyer argued the business was legitimate but became mired in debt and simply failed.

Despite the grand jury ruling, state law allows the Terrebonne District Attorney's Office to continue prosecution on other charges, in this case 17 counts of theft.

Jewett did not up for his Sept. 20 court date, said Assistant District Attorney Carlos Lazarus, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

"We continue to try to bring criminal charges," Lazarus said in an interview Friday.

Attempts to reach Jewett were unsuccessful, and calls to his attorney, Thomas Calogero, were not returned.

Jewett could serve up to 10 years for each theft count, Lazarus said, but it would be likely the sentences would be served concurrently.

There have been at least four civil lawsuits filed against the company over the bills. Neither the business nor Jewett have filed for bankruptcy, according to federal records.

The school was started in 2000 by Gerald Johnston and sold to local aviator and attorney Darryl Christen, who then sold it to Jewett and a partner, Zackary French, in November 2008. The school appeared to thrive for a while, but less than a year later, in September 2009, the business partners left Houma, citing financial problems.

The two tried to start a similar operation in Monroe but were stopped when Terrebonne officials said they realized a recurring pattern of unpaid bills. Jewett was arrested in Florida on Dec. 16, 2009, on a racketeering charge and released in August after no indictment was made.

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