YouTuber Faces Up To 20 Years For Obstruction Of A Federal Investigation

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today in a memo that YouTuber Trevor Jacob, 29, agreed yesterday (May 10) to plead guilty to a felony charge for obstructing a federal investigation. According to the plea agreement with the U.S. States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Jacob admits he deliberately destroyed the wreckage of the airplane he intentionally crashed “to gain online views.” Also according to the DOJ memo, Jacob “had secured a sponsorship from a company that sold various products, including a wallet. Pursuant to the sponsorship deal, Jacob agreed to promote the company’s wallet in a YouTube video that he would post.”

As previously reported, Jacob claimed that the engine of his vintage Taylorcraft quit on Nov. 24, 2021, and he was forced to bail out over hostile terrain. He posted a YouTube video of the incident about a month later that included promotional material for the wallet. Virtually everyone in the aviation community who watched the video immediately cried foul, citing multiple inconsistencies in his story.

Jacob’s pilot certificate was revoked in April 2022. But now, he faces obstruction charges that could result in a federal prison term of as much as 20 years, according to the DOJ memo.

It wasn’t until two days after the crash that Jacob reported it to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which then launched an investigation. NTSB investigators told Jacob he was responsible for preserving the wreckage and he agreed to provide investigators with the exact location of the Taylorcraft and his video footage of the accident from aircraft-mounted cameras and from a camera mounted on a selfie stick that he used to record the parachute jump.

However, according to the memo, Jacob instead lied to NTSB and FAA investigators in the following weeks, saying he didn’t know the location of the crash. And on Dec. 10, 2021, he and a friend removed the wreckage with a helicopter and used Jacob’s truck to tow it to Lompoc City Airport.

According to the DOJ memo, “He then cut up and destroyed the airplane wreckage and, over the course of a few days, deposited the detached parts of the wrecked airplane into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere, which he admitted in his plea agreement was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating the November 24 plane crash.”

The memo continued, “Jacob further admitted he lied to federal investigators when he submitted an aircraft accident incident report that falsely indicated that the aircraft experienced a full loss of power approximately 35 minutes after takeoff. Jacob also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the airplane’s engine had quit and, because he could not identify any safe landing options, he had parachuted out of the plane.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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64 COMMENTS

  1. Bye bye birdi. See how many views you can get with “Big Willie in Cell Block C”.

  2. If he had done this in a country without any modern FAA equivalent, or strong relations with the USA, would he have been able to avoid FAA sanctions to his pilots license? I’m not asking about the the whole rigamarole that ultimately cost him dearly. Just if he had done the stunt in a country that might not have ever know or cared about it.

    • This is one of ‘Only in America’ events. It is highly unlikely it would happen somewhere else. It has nothing to do with ‘modern’ FAA.

  3. I don’t think the stunt is the major issue at this point, although he senselessly murdered a perfectly airworthy antique airplane in the process, a sin in and of itself. The crime was the lying, deceit, and coverup. To summarize, as I said above, dick.

  4. Along with old dogs and watermelon wine, (thanks for the image and rest in peace Tom T Hall), there’s something sentimental about mid ’40s Taylorcraft, Champs, Cubs and Cessna 120s. They remind me of Lucy, our 16 year old but still very cute 10 pound Jack Russel/Bishon, still loving life. And so it is that my emotions upon seeing Trevor Jacob’s screen shot of his soon to be demolished but still eager to fly Taylorcraft range from intense anger to deep sadness. Lump in my throat sadness.

    • Once this bonehead bailed out that poor little Taylorcraft was off on an unguided and very hazardous date with destiny. My bet is this moron had no idea of all air traffic in the area and imagine your surprise if you were flying along and out of blue came a pilotless vintage airplane descending at you in an unpredictable death spiral.

      We have enough uninformed bad press about about general aviation without some lowlife like this clown putting others at unnecessary risk. A little time in the club fed is quite appropriate.

      • Probably FAR less likely to get hit by his wayward plane than most piloted planes, especially near airports. The likelihood of a mid-air in this care are VERY close to zero.

  5. While everyone seems to be relishing this fellow’s impending trip to the hoosegow standing back it’s just an impressive commentary on what it takes to “break through” these days. At its core the recent red bull stunt of landing on the Burj Khalifa is actually no different, a desperate quest for our eyeballs. Yes, legal, much better planned (don’t forget the media strategy), and much better supported. But at the end of the day, it’s about the views- excuse me- impressions.

    Whether you’re hawking a wallet or an energy drink it demands attention. What are you willing to do to get it?

    • Not the same at all; a well-planned, perfectly legal (and actually reasonably safe) exhibition versus … well, we all saw Trevor’s video. Ersatz fuel system, different engine, convenient number of cameras, conveniently having their content harvested, before conveniently “forgetting” the location.
      People have been doing “hey everybody, watch this” since time began.

      • And don’t forget the other “You tuber” in the middle the night in East US, dressed like waiting for a party, trying to convince us of the unfortunate thing that happened to this dick.

  6. If he agreed to plead guilty of a felony and admitted to the details of what he did, what’s the flip side of the plea deal? No jail time? No fine? He gets to keep his Signature Model wallet?

    • If you read all of the paperwork, there is no “get out of jail free” card included.
      It’s likely that he’ll get 18 months or so, as the Feds like to make examples. Heck, people have gone to jail for paying to get their kids into college. This guy intentionally killed an airplane, after illegally modifying it.

    • I’m betting five years probation and maybe time served in jail. The only unknown is how seriously the feds take the destroying evidence part. If he had just crashed the plane and fessed up, they would have definitely just given probation.

    • The law allows a sentence of up to 20 years for this crime. Plea bargains usually involve getting a lighter sentence than the maximum.
      If you know you’re going to be convicted, it’s better to plead guilty than to drag yourself through a trial and then see how the judge feels when it’s time to have down your sentence.
      The government would rather give a lighter sentence (especially in cases like this where no one was hurt) to free up the courts for the more difficult cases. Something like 95% of criminal cases in the USA never go to trial, because the perpetrator pleads guilty.

  7. As a former 23 year skydiver and parachute rigger I noticed the 3-ring release system on his so-called “pilot” rig which immediately tells me he was lying through his teeth regarding his story to the FAA.

    • Having sex with a willing woman sure beats raping them or would you like to try and make it a moral equivalence? There is schmuck and then there is bastard levels to life. Learn the difference…

      • Not his wife, at work, in his office. Just because it was “consensual” adultery while at work hardly makes it less immoral.

    • All he had to do was have a safety pilot – this is Martha lunken level dumb.

      Any stories on this guy in parachute circles. I wouldn’t jump with his rig.

  8. One defense this guy might have is the right of salvage, if he owned the aircraft. A heavy prison term seems a very heavy handed punishment for what is a youthful stunt where no injury or loss occurred beyond his plane. All in all, this seems like a “tempest in a teapot”, i.e. not very important in the scheme of things. FAA rule making progress on various things affecting GA are important, such as the progress of 100UL deployment, new certification rules, etc.

    • Read the headline again John D. He’s not in trouble for his “youthful stunt” or for exercising some “right of salvage”. He’s in trouble for obstruction.

    • He modified the plane (different engine and fuel system), then outfitted it with cameras, wore a parachute a little fancier than what a test pilot would (and no evidence of him every wearing one in a flight prior), totally lied to the FAA about what occurred, lied about not knowing the location, didn’t turn over the footage, helicoptered the wreckage out and then destroyed it. BTW, the government would have retrieved it for free, and returned it to Trevor, and I think you know that.
      “Youthful stunt”. Nope. I predict 18 months in Club Fed.

    • He has no “right of salvage”, especially since he was specifically told by the NTSB to not disturb the wreckage.

    • This guy deliberately endangered others and the environment and destroyed property for a few internet clicks. Then he wasted time and our tax money by lying to investigators.

      There’s a lot of times when prison is too heavy-handed. This isn’t one of those times.

      Screw him. Throw him under the jail.

  9. As we type out our comments some other fool is plotting some stupid stunt. Hopefully, he will get a minimum of 5-years for this stunt plus probation. However, I don’t we have heard the last from this idiot.

  10. He’s a dumbass, but he wouldn’t be dumb enough to take a plea deal without knowing the jail time. And if 20yrs was really the best offer he got for pleading guilty, I’m pretty sure he’d have taken his chances with a jury. He’s lost his certificate, and he’ll definitely do time. Wow, 20:20 hindsight…

    • The paperwork shows that there is no deal as to the sentence. He won’t know until sentencing. I’ll bet his attorney checked up on what others got. 18 months is what I came up with. But he could indeed get 18 years.

  11. Now I’m curious to see what happens to the Red Bull Cessna guys who attempted the midair aircraft switch. I know both guys lost their license but I bet there’s more trouble coming.

  12. Wanton waste to deliberately destroy an airplane that could have been used in any number of charitable endeavors.

  13. Red Bull hq is Salzburg. Foreign company sticks a finger in the eye of our government. Maybe that us the bigger story.

  14. Dunno. Santos set himself up for a long vacation in a very NON-exclusive club. A number of other stuffed shirt liars and cheats have preceded him in various Federal pens.

  15. K-Y jelly has no use in an aircraft, but it’ll come in handy now that he’s likely going to prison.

    • This is from a press release, almost word for word, as are most of the “new stories” on the site. There’s not a huge amount of real aviation news every day, so obviously the content comes from somewhere so that we have four “new” things everyday to read and get mad at. Press releases are obviously one side of a story and designed to make that one side look good. But journalistically, you’d be required to analyze what that one side said and see if there were opposing views. In reality, these just get copy/pasted. If you take a paragraph of this news “story”, and put it into Google, you’ll see another 100 “aviation news” sites on the web world wide that just happened to stumble on those exact same words.

      Avweb is hardly the only site on the web that relies on other biased sources to create “news”, but If you raise this fact in the comments, your comments will be censored by the site reviewer who is evidently not open to any criticism.

      This press release was simply to tell reporters that a plea deal was being followed later that day. So you might think a news site would read the PR and look it up and then “write” their story. In my comment, I posted a link to the plea agreement that the press release referenced by actually looking it up in PACER and posting a copy of it, and explained my reading of its terms in reference to Federal Sentencing Guidelines which again anyone who was interested or was a reporter could do. But because I hurt someone’s feelings by pointing out that usually a reporter’s job to do this legwork, my comment got deleted in four seconds.

  16. All for “fame” on youtube. WOW! he got famous alright. Hopefully, others watching these infamous acts will be discouraged to pursue similar notoriety.

  17. “Felony obstruction? That sounds serious.
    As far as serious, I seriously doubt that the NTSB even investigates most non-injury crashes of light planes in remote areas that hit nothing and hit no one out somewhere in the wilderness.

    His only crime was waking up the NTSB who then “had to do” something.

    • Lying to the feds, or whatever government department, is a crime in any country in the world, and then destroying the evidence (after having been warned off by the NTSB to not approach the wreck) after his airplane adventure is another felony, as is calling the ATC and declaring a Mayday as a lark (which activates a lot of resources, costing thousands of dollars).

      Had he done it over his own land, and not called the ATC I doubt anything would have happened, but then publishing the event on YouTube would still have been a risk.

      Another guy crashlanded in Puget Sound, filming the event, and I am not sure anything happened to him afterward.

      • Don’t talk to the “feds”; never, ever.
        Only thing that will do is “be used against you in a court of law”.
        STFU and you will be fine.

        • This. Having been on both sides of the fence, you summed it up perfectly.

          They are not your friends.

          They’re not trying to “help you out of a jam if you level with them”.

          They don’t record their interviews, unlike every other law enforcement org in this country for the past 50 years. They are trained to keep a notebook, and courts have longstanding precedent that contemporaneous notes by one party, even a biased one, can be taken at face value and admissible as evidence, including the LEO’s liberal “reading” of chicken scratch on a notepad page that he swears under oath says something you never did.

          Based on personal knowledge, they have a policy to terminate any interview when you insist on recording audio and or video.

          Every word you say to them should be “Lawyer”

  18. For people that refuse to read articles and jump right to the comments.

    “The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today in a memo that YouTuber Trevor Jacob, 29, agreed yesterday (May 10) to plead guilty to a felony charge for obstructing a federal investigation.”

    • For people who do follow the news, the “DoJ” has not been a beacon of truth, justice, or the American way.

  19. He could win in LOTS of districts. And he’d probably be WAY better than many people who are in office now!

  20. This ass hole is a total piece of human excrement and I pray he gets 20. He is a criminal with a pilots license. Thank God it was revoked. Had this started a fire, destroyed homes and property with possible deaths……………he is lucky to get 20. They should be able to hold the advertiser liable for conspiracy to crash an airplane also.

  21. In today’s monkey-see / monkey-do social world, sometimes law enforcers have to put on their own little over the top show just to get the attention of the monkeys.

    Urban SoCal areas having problems with street takeover drifting shows are now moving to a hard policy of confiscating the vehicles involved, even if taking away the toys requires some “expansive” use of unrelated legal statutes. And no, I don’t feel for the monkeys there, either.

  22. And yet, in Chicago and other cities there’s gang members, rioters, and real criminals with no jail time. They match the right political narrative. So 20 years, he’s a jerk, the gang member who shot people who’s out on parole in Chicaho and then charges dropped. No years. Yea the feds are making good decisions.

    • That’s a real problem, but it’s because of certain county and state DAs. The FBI doesn’t have control over that.

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