(Updated below with comment from a DEA spokeswoman in Houston)
On Feb. 3, U.S. Marshals Service deputies seized a 1982 Gulfstream that had arrived at Tucson International Airport.
The owner of the plane, Starwood Management, also owned the Learjet 25 in which singer Jenni Rivera was riding when it crashed Sunday, killing her and the other six people on board.
Records on the seizure of the plane are sketchy, but what's clear is that it was one of two planes that federal agents seized this year from Starwood on behalf of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The other was a Starwood Hawker seized in McAllen, Texas after a flight from Mexico on Sept. 12.
A factor behind the seizure, apparently, was the presence of one Ed Nuñez on company records. In an April lawsuit Starwood filed (attached) to get the Tucson Gulfstream back, attorney Gary Cohen wrote:
When the Aircraft was formerly registered with the FAA by Starwood Management, LLC, the documents were signed by Mr. Ed Nunez, operating through a power of attorney given to Mr. Nunez by Starwood. Mr. Nunez is not a United States citizen. Starwood has submitted a new application for registration with the FAA, signed by Ms. Gonzalez, on behalf of Starwood Management. (See Exhibit A). Ms. Gonzalez is a United States citizen.
Nuñez is also known as Christian E. Esquino Nuñez and apparently has quite a record. Two insurance companies filed suit against Starwood this year in an effort to prevent Starwood from collecting on insurance policies covering the two seized planes. Both suits (attached) center on the role this man has played in Starwood and call him the "alter ego" of the company.
They say that Esquino Nuñez was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 1990s and admitted lying in flight logs in 2004. He served a prison sentence on the latter charge before being deported to Mexico.
In its lawsuit, Starwood insists that only one Norma Gonzalez is part of the management.
The DEA investigation that led to the seizures was based in the agency's Houston office and is ongoing, said Lisa Webb Johnson, a spokeswoman for that office. She declined to comment in detail but said the seizure was an administrative action, not a judicial one, which explains the lack of records justifying the seizures in the federal court system.