18-year-old accused of joyriding in stolen plane
ROSEAU, Minn. — An 18-year-old Minnesota man who doesn't have a pilot's license but apparently taught himself to fly pleaded guilty Monday to stealing a single-engine plane that he allegedly took on joyrides over the summer and fall.
Geoffrey Biteman pleaded guilty Monday in Roseau County District Court to a felony charge of motor vehicle theft and a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of an aircraft. Assistant County Attorney Michael Grover said the plea agreement included 60 days in jail, 60 days of home monitoring, a stayed prison sentence of 13 months, up to five years of probation and just over $1,000 in fines and fees, plus any needed restitution. Sentencing is set for Jan. 6, Grover said.
The Thief River Falls teen is accused of flying a Cessna 150 from Roseau to several cities in northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota over the summer, the Grand Forks Herald first reported. The plane belongs to Maj. Joshua Rasmussen, of Angle Inlet, who's currently deployed with the Air Force in Afghanistan.
"It's an unusual case," Grover said.
Biteman's attorney, Seamus Duffy, of Thief River Falls, did not immediately return a call Monday.
According to the criminal complaint, police began investigating Oct. 9 after a suspicious pilot reported seeing two young men fly into the Roseau airport and use a courtesy car available for pilots there. The pilot told Police Chief Ward Anderson he had seen Biteman flying the plane regularly. The chief found mail addressed to Biteman inside the plane.
Anderson saw the plane was gone when he went back Oct. 17. He called the Thief River Falls airport, where the manager said Biteman had been flying in all summer. He said he was suspicious because Biteman was fueling the plane with cans of regular gasoline instead of aviation fuel from the hangar, the complaint said.
Police eventually traced the plane to the sugarbeet farm of Kevin Lee near St. Thomas, N.D. Lee told the Herald he had hired Biteman to drive a beet truck, but he was late one night.
"All of a sudden I hear this plane," Lee said. The plane landed on an unlit road and taxied into his yard. The farmer told the police chief the plane was still there.
Police arrested Biteman on Oct. 22. The complaint says Biteman confirmed that he did not have a pilot's license and nor permission to fly the plane to North Dakota, and said he was an aviation mechanics student.