An 18-year-old con man was charged Friday with aviation theft and operating an airplane without a license, according to the Grand Forks Herald. What's more, police believe Geoffrey Biteman taught himself how to fly.
Biteman had been couch-hopping with friends in Thief River Falls when he was arrested Oct. 22, according to Chief Ward Anderson of the Roseau Police Department.
In what may be typical Minnesota understatement, assistant county attorney Michael Grover called it "kind of an unusual case. We don't see an awful lot of aviation theft."
Biteman landed on police radar when witnesses saw him and friends "joyriding" in a courtesy vehicle at the Thief River Falls Airport. A pilot told police he had also seen Biteman flying a 1971 Cessna 150 to and from the airport.
The airplane belongs to Air Force Maj. Joshua Rasmussen of Angle Inlet, Minn, who is deployed in Afghanistan. He left his brother, Adam Rasmussen, in charge of trying to sell the plane. Last spring Biteman called Adam Rasmussen, saying he was interested in buying the plane. He said he was in his 30s and a licensed pilot. Rasmussen suggested Biteman take a test flight, and told him where to find the plane at the Roseau airport. Biteman later told Rasmussen he had found another plane to buy.
Joe Cornelius, who owns Thief River Aviation at the Thief River Falls Airport, told Chief Anderson he had been aware of Biteman flying the Cessna in and out of the airport for months. "He had been flying in all summer and fueling the plane with gas cans full of automotive fuel, rather than purchasing airplane fuel at the hangar,” Cornelius said, according to the court complaint.
AVWeb, an aviation website, reports Roseau police learned that Biteman was regularly using the plane to fly sugar beets for a farmer in North Dakota, landing on an unlit road at night at least once.
Biteman pleaded guilty this fall to stealing a horse trailer in Clearwater County, and is in Roseau jail awaiting sentencing on that charge.