QBE Insurance Corp. alleges that a Starwood aircraft was ordered seized by the DEA when it landed in McAllen, Texas, from Mexico on Sept. 12. The New York-based insurer sued in October to rescind coverage for the Hawker 700 jet.
QBE, based in New York, said the DEA also seized a Starwood-owned Gulfstream G-1159A _ insured by another company _ when it landed in Tucson from Mexico in February. Starwood said in its court filing that it didn’t have enough information to address the allegation.
Nevada secretary of state records list only one Starwood officer _ Norma Gonzalez _ but QBE alleges that the company is owned and managed by Ed Nunez, who, according to the lawsuit, is also known as Christian Esquino and had a long criminal history.
Starwood rejected the insurer’s description of Nunez’s role at the company.
QBE said Esquino also served two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud involving an aircraft in Southern California in 2004. QBE said Esquino’s attorney stated in court back then that his client had been under investigation by the DEA for more than a year.
George Crow, an attorney for Starwood, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left after business hours Monday.
There have been several high-profile crashes involving Learjets, known as swift, longer-distance passenger aircraft popular with corporate executives, entertainers and government officials.
A Learjet carrying pro-golfer Payne Stewart and five others crashed in northeastern South Dakota in 1999. Investigators said the plane lost cabin pressure and all on board died after losing consciousness for lack of oxygen.
Former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker was severely injured in a 2008 Learjet crash in South Carolina that killed four people.
That same year, a Learjet slammed into rush-hour traffic in a Mexico City neighborhood, killing Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino and eight others on the plane, plus five people on the ground.
Tamara contributed from Los Angeles. Raquel Dillon in Los Angeles and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
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