Florida Law Enforcement Operating Aircraft Covertly Behind Front Company
[Update: August 3rd; Public Information Officer at SE FL Fusion Center, “I assure you that we don’t have aircraft.” Told me to check with Broward County Sheriffs Office and added that “People have spoofed [their phone numbers] before.”
Cessna aircraft N786TF has been airborne June 25th, 27th and 30th flying circles above the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area. The aircraft is registered to “American Corporate Executive Services,” lead by “Doug Maroone.” The company exists solely to be a placeholder for registration purposes of the aircraft, and does not exist outside of online business listings. A simple phone call to the telephone number listed on those very public websites rang the desk of an analyst at the Southeast Florida Fusion Center.
This practice of registering aircraft to companies that do not actually exist was one of the reasons it was possible to “discover” the entire fleet of Federal surveillance aircraft. The FBI, in a response to the Associated Press questioning the practice of hiding operations behind fake companies said, “It uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft, shielding their identities from would-be suspects on the ground.” While that sounds reasonable, logic indicates that suspects on the ground would not be concerned with the registration of an aircraft circling them, more, how to escape the watchful eye of those inside the aircraft. The practice of concealing the true identity of those operating the aircraft behind a few thin layers, enables missions to be conducted covertly, away from public scrutiny and in a gray area. It also affords to operators the convenience of plausible deniability, at least until they are concretely linked to the cover company.
This is the first time that it can be clearly demonstrated that an American fusion center is concealing some of its operations behind (at least one) shell company; a practice that most assumed would be reserved solely to Federal agencies. The implications of this are vast, and I have reached out to the Southeast Florida Fusion Center for comments and to hopefully answer some questions about the operation of the aircraft, why they felt it necessary to hide an aircraft registration from those they are supposed to protect and serve, and just who is this Doug Maroone? I will update this post following that conversation.