Air Charter Official Gets 1-Year Sentence
BARBARA GUTIERREZ Herald Staff Writer
Fernando Fuentes Coba, president of American Airways Charter (AAC), was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $10,000 Tuesday for "conspiring to trade with the enemy."
"I maintain that I'm innocent and believe this to be a political sentencing," said Fuentes, 53, who said he will appeal the decision of U.S. District Judge James W. Kehoe. He remains free on an existing $100,000 personal surety bond pending an appeal.
Fuentes was convicted by a jury Nov. 18 of conspiring with three Cuban nationals in the illegal shipment of cargo to Cuba.
The cargo included communication equipment, duffle bags filled with quarters and four Pepsi Cola machines. It was flown to the island on AAC-chartered planes in violation of U.S. embargo violations.
AAC, a firm that chartered airplanes to Cuba, was ordered to close in April.
In pre-sentencing statements Judge Kehoe told assistant U.S. attorney Paul DiPaolo and defense attorney James McMaster that he had "agonized over certain areas" in the trial.
"But I consider the trial was fair and deny motion for mistrial and acquittal," Kehoe said. After the November conviction, Kehoe warned DiPaolo that he would consider carefully a motion for mistrial including several questionable statements by the prosecutor. He witheld adjudication at the time.
On Tuesday Kehoe judged Fuentes guilty.
Attorney Paul DiPaolo, who led the government's prosecution, said that he considered the sentence fair.