Former Bizjet Escrow Exec Guilty of Drug Trafficking

It turns out that cocaine, wire fraud, and money laundering aren’t great ways to make a living.

A U.S. District Court in Texas convicted Debra Lynn Mercer-Erwin, owner of Wright Brothers Aircraft Title, and Aircraft Guaranty Corp. (AGC), of money laundering, wire fraud, and two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine on April 27, following a two-week trial.

Mercer-Erwin, a well-known figure in the business aircraft transaction community, served as a board member of the National Aircraft Finance Association. But according to the government, her Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based aircraft title and escrow services enabled cartels to use U.S.-registered aircraft that AGC held in trust to be used in the drug trade.  

Following her arrest in 2020, the FAA suspended title transfers of more than four dozen aircraft held in trust at the direction of the Department of Justice, raising concerns about the legitimacy of the registrations of some 6,000 U.S. aircraft owned in trusts. AGC was a trustee to more than 1,000 such airplanes.

Mercer-Erwin was also found guilty of operating a Ponzi scheme as part of her money laundering, advertising aircraft for sale that were actually not available, and using escrowed funds to repay money deposited by previous would-be buyers. Co-defendants Kayleigh Moffett, Mercer-Erwin’s daughter, and Carlos Rocha Villaurrutia pleaded guilty in April. Mercer-Erwin faces up to life in prison.