The faa was not impressed. In the late 1970s, agent Charles. Braunstein was assigned to both the new York and New Jersey faa offices and tasked with investigating fraudulent Air Taxi certifications. Most operators I met during that time were cordial and interesting to know, Charles Braunstein told me in an email. But in each case i was disappointed to find out they were involved with drugs. In 1977 the agent was assigned to dellentashs Triple-d corporation. He would spend years chasing Dellentash, whose company was — in Braunsteins words — the epitome of the fly-by-night airlines that were a danger to American passengers. When he secured the contract to fly Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al saud, the third in line to the saudi throne (and now the king dellentashs aircraft received automatic diplomatic immunity, taking him above the clutches of the faa.
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It was a horrifying glimpse into my future. Dellentash decided against the drug game, instead using his title loan scam to and buy more planes with the banks money and lease them to rich businessmen. He found a bank in Oklahoma that wasnt part of the fdic and wrangled a 200,000 line of credit. This was the era of the check float that enabled many con artists: After a check was deposited, three days were required until the funds were debited from the payers account. As a result, a check writer could expect to receive approximately nine days of free money. And with that, his Cessnas became falcons, and those falcons became learjets. As America entered the me decade of the 1970s, one man was climbing faster than the rest, and he wasnt looking down. But running an airline like dellentashs required a 121 Air Carrier Certification from the federal Airline authority (faa which involved boring application letters and safety checks. Dellentash bypassed the requirements by calling his business a leasing company instead of an airline. He cleverly ran a separate crewing company to dodge the rules.
The piece"s a customs agent, who said: Anybody who knows how to fly can get into the business and make a lot of money in a hurry if he can get away with. You know anyone who can pick up 1,500 pounds of marijuana? Lenny asked, one afternoon. When opportunity knocked, he always answered. Dellentash leased a plane for the occasion and flew a rare push-pull Cessna skymaster story 337 over Central America, with propellers on the front and back of the aircraft. It was the first time dellentash had flown one, and it was certainly the first time the belizeans at the airport had seen a push-pull aircraft, because one of their men walked around the back and strolled into the rear propeller, still running at full. It was a mess, says Dellentash. The propeller almost decapitated the man, who fell with blood bubbling out of his nose and mouth. Someone finished him off with a revolver, dellentash recalls.
They had trap doors on the bottom, and when asked if he wanted them sealed, dellentash said,. Ive got an idea. Ill buy as many of these damned trap-door planes as you can sell me, said Lenny, one of Dellentashs customers from Oklahoma. Under his cowboy hat, lenny was a shaggy-haired triple-a athlete who chose booze and girls over the big leagues. Dellentash knew Lenny and his boys flew bales of pot from Mexico, and dropped their load into fields across the sooner state without even landing. Everyone was doing it, lenny said. Together, they figured the trap doors would be perfect. A 1970s, national new York times editorial titled flying drug-runners book reap big profits described these early, aerial smugglers: They fly low and slow and by the light of the moon, and make 50,000 a night.
His bank suggested that he take a loan against the title of the plane instead. Remarkably, he left the bank with a check for 300,000 — for a plane worth next to nothing. I realized I was on to something, he says. A young Alfred Dellentash. Dellentash quit his construction job and set up an airplane sales and charter company at Hanger 17 in Teterboro, new Jersey. Though he used the banks cash to finance his spending, he was often too broke to afford gas. Dellentash recalls buying a consignment of light aircraft in Sweden that turned out to be overhead camera planes used for geometric surveys.
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It was completely illegal, he says, but she was very impressed. This was Mad Men-era America, where the pursuit of material possessions and individual happiness reigned free. My father arranged for me to online work for a construction firm, where i joined the union and sat on a crane doing nothing. I just felt trapped in his world, says Dellentash. My life was all mapped out for. In 1971, dellentash married his high school girlfriend, and they had two children. Any dreams of becoming a pilot or rock star faded like jet plane contrails in the sky as he settled down in a montvale, new Jersey, house he couldnt afford.
It tore me apart, he says. I had babies at home to look after and that became the priority. But domestic life could not ground him for long, and he yearned to escape the daily grind and lift off once again. In 1973, dellentash spotted an irresistibly priced aircraft for sale in a copy of Airplane Trader. I just wanted to feel that freedom when write my plane left the runway, when I could go anywhere i wanted, he recalls. Dellentash flew to oklahoma to complete the sale, but learned that the vendor, known as Flamin Eddie, had been found dead in his bathtub. The plane was a wreck, and in desperation, dellentash tried to cancel his check.
His father was an Italian-American building contractor with high-rise goals, and his pianist mother was the head of the local Republican Party. Alfred sang in the church choir but regularly stole the body of Christ wine. He spent his evenings painting model B52 and B17 bombers at home and wanted to be a rock star or a jet pilot, depending on what day you asked. Dellentash became a frequent truant and a straight-D student by his own admission, preferring hustling in local pool halls, moving swag and loan-sharking. He played in local bars with his band instead of studying.
At age sixteen, dellentash obtained his pilots license. I spent every dollar I had buying flying time, he says. I thought about becoming an airline pilot, but I figured i only wanted to fly where i wanted. He flunked high school but excelled at aviation school. While his peers raced fast cars, he soared high above them in planes, flying loop-de-loops. One afternoon while in Florida he borrowed a twin-engine plane to take a girl on a date, landing the aircraft on a strip of sand just in time for the sunset.
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In an office full of salesman trophies, i politely request his first extended interview since being released from his twenty-five-year jail sentence, of which he served just a fifth. I offer the chance to tell how it really happened, for the first time. But Dellentash explains that his head is compartmentalized — he keeps his past locked in a shadowy corner integration of his mind. This showroom, he says with a wave of his hand, was the choice he made long ago: to leave his past behind and stop running, to enter civilian life and try to win back the only woman who could keep up with him at full. He turns down my request. Weeks later i am surprised when my telephone rings, waiting and a thick new York accent asks: Alfred Dellentash. Was born on August 19, 1948, in New Rochelle, new York.
the car showroom, he is known to colleagues as Dell. While i wait, one of them, susan, tells me her favorite dell story: She was dealing with an angry customer who was rejected for poor credit. In a rage the thug rose to strike her, but Dellentash came from nowhere and subdued him with an expert arm twist. And suddenly he is ready to see. Today, alfred Dellentash, sixty-six, is mustachioed and bespectacled, wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt. If there has been any surgery, i cannot see. The expensive italian shoes are the only glimpse of his past, when he infuriated the fusty airline industry by staffing his jet planes with Playboy models. According to feverish reports online, back then he was the equivalent of Richard Branson and Tony Scarface montana.
The headline is a clever joke, you see, because the story is about his multi-million-dollar private jet-leasing business, which he built in his twenties: Among the acts that have chartered Dellentashs three convairs, two helicopters and a boeing 707 are the rolling Stones, kiss and. The next hit told me dellentash was moonlighting as a wingman for life two of historys most deadly criminal organizations, flying Pablo Escobars drugs from Colombia to the gambino crime family in New York. His mile-high empire was a front for the most rock n roll drug smuggling ring in history. Ironically, dellentash was secretly getting the whole of America high — hiding in plain sight as a chartered plane provider, and later, a music manager for 1980s acts including meat loaf and the bay city rollers. I requested to speak to dellentash through Jack dampf, the baton rouge attorney who represented him during his 1984 trial in which Dellentash was charged with criminal conspiracy to distribute drugs. As soon as I mentioned the name dellentash, dampf broke into laughter and told me: boy, this is one hell of a story. Online speculators have tried to link dellentashs name to the famous. Cooper hijacking in 1971 (he was too young and short to have been cooper the.
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It is seven oclock on a humid Los Angeles evening, and business is winding down at a suburban car showroom. I walk past a team of guys polishing Japanese hybrids with bright white rags, past the twenty-five-cent gumball machines and into the air-conditioned office. An attorney has arranged this meeting with one of Americas most mysterious men — who has reportedly had surgery to change his identity — at his place planner of work. His name is Alfred Dellentash. When I first punched his name into google, six months ago, the results were simply baffling. First, there is an archived. People magazine article from 1978, titled: touring rock stars go to al dellentash when they really want to get high.