A 29-year-old YouTuber from Lompoc has pleaded guilty to crashing an airplane on purpose for the pageviews, then lying to federal investigators and clandestinely disposing of the wreckage.
We had a fair amount of disgust last month over the Petaluma “Influencer Mom” who made up story that an innocent Latino couple had kidnapped her kids, and then used the fake story to drive traffic to her Instagram account. Yet a new influencer-gone-amuck story from Santa Barbara County shows a far more dangerous hoax stunt stunt that could have had much deadlier consequences, as CNN reports that a Lompoc man pleaded guilty to faking his own plane crash for YouTube views, “in a video he made to promote a [crypto?] wallet.”
So this was some sort of sponsorship deal for 29-year-old Trevor Jacob, but on Thursday the Department of Justice announced Jacob pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation over the ruse.
The 12-minute video “I Crashed My Airplane” is actually still online (are they allowing him to still monetize it?), and was recorded on the day of the incident, November 24, 2021. Jacob has decked out the plane with all manner of cameras, and at the 1:50 mark he gets out of the plane and jumps with a parachute. The plane is then flying with no pilot (though equipped with several cameras which are still rolling) and crashes at the 3:36 mark.
Jacob then finds the plane at the 6:07 mark, and complains, “I had a water jug in the back” that was no longer there. He tries to generate sympathy for his post-crash plight, though it’s pretty clear watching the video that he’s done all of this on purpose. Upon meeting a stranger after the crash, he claims “I had an engine go out in the mountains,” though according to the Justice Department, Jacob later admitted the crash was intentional and “he intended to make money through the video.”
But it’s not the airplane crash that has Jacob in so much legal jeopardy, it’s the lying to federal investigators after the crash.
Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated the crash. Jacob falsely claimed to both agencies the plane had a full loss of power and an engine failure, even though it’s clear on his YouTube video that neither of these things happened. He also admitted he lied in his schemes to conceal the plane’s wreckage.
“Jacob lied to investigators that he did not know the wreckage’s location,” the DOJ says in the release. “In fact, on December 10, 2021, Jacob and a friend flew by helicopter to the wreckage site. There, Jacob used straps to secure the wreckage, which the helicopter lifted and carried to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where it was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob’s pickup truck.” He then apparently disseminated the wreckage in trash bins at the Lompoc City Airport.
The obstruction of a federal investigation charge comes with a maximum 20-year sentence, and Jacob had his pilot’s license revoked in April 2022.
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Screenshot via YouTube