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Prosecutors seek second contempt charge, jail for AeroVanti founder

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 12:30 p.m. June 17, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Patrick Britton-Harr founded AeroVanti in 2021.
Patrick Britton-Harr founded AeroVanti in 2021.
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Federal prosecutors in Maryland are asking a judge to once again hold Patrick Britton-Harr in contempt after he failed to provide documentation of why he was unable to pay a more than $500,000 court ordered fine and that he be jailed if he fails to.

In a court filing late Friday afternoon, prosecutors asked U.S District Judge Ellen Hollander to bring the founder of the air service company AeroVanti in for a hearing to explain why he has not complied with discovery orders to disclose his finances after filing a status report detailing why he did not pay $575,000 as ordered in March.

Prosecutors write that “the United States has made good faith efforts to facilitate a response to the discovery order by offering to accept documents on a rolling basis, listing the documents to prioritize, and extending the deadline to respond before the government would seek further assistance from the court.

“Despite these efforts by the United States, Britton-Harr has failed to answer any interrogatories and has failed to produce documents beyond bank statements for a few accounts and three documents for the purported sale of a yacht.”

Given his resistance to complying and inability — or unwillingness — to pay, prosecutors are asking Hollander to jail him. They argue that “remedies to address civil contempt may include confinement until the contemnor complies where the (person found in contempt) is refusing to obey a court order.”

“If after hearing from Defendant Britton-Harr it is determined that he does not have the financial resources to pay a fine to coerce compliance, the United States requests that the court issue a nonfinancial coercive remedy.”

A hearing date has not been set.

The money was due after Britton-Harr was found in contempt the first time March 4. In that instance, he sold an Annapolis, Maryland, home days after a $30 million judgement was filed against him and several companies he owns were charged with committing Medicare fraud.

The money from the sale, which violated a court order, was then transferred to AeroVanti.

AeroVanti is the Sarasota company that’s been hit with more than a dozen lawsuits and default judgements from clients, employees and vendors accusing it of misappropriating funds and failing to make payments as its planes sat unrepaired or were repossessed.

(Prosecutors have also alleged in previous filings that at least some of the money from the original fraud was used to start the company.)

Britton-Harr was to have paid the $575,000 fine by the end of April or provide a status report as to why he couldn’t come up with the money. In that status report, he wrote that he had no bank account and was depending on the charity of others.

But prosecutors in Friday’s filing question that and ask that he provide proof of his financial status while accusing him of creating “a myriad of shell companies and bank accounts to frustrate the tracking of his assets.”

His attorney, who has since withdrawn from the case, did send prosecutors an email April 12 with three bank statements for a bank account in Britton-Harr’s wife’s name. The statements, prosecutors say, “included multiple large wire transfers to unknown persons for unknown purposes.”

This is in addition to selling a yacht through AeroVanti that, like the home, he was prohibited from selling.

Given that, prosecutors write another contempt charge and jail are needed given that “the United States is unable to verify the true financial status of Britton-Harr (and the defendant companies) because of Britton-Harr’s noncompliance with the discovery order.”

“And, given his conduct to date, the United States cannot simply take Britton-Harr’s word as to his financial status.”

Britton-Harr has not responded to dozens of requests for comments in the past year, including one for this story.



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the deputy managing editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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