Well-piloted, well-maintained planes rarely nosedive 28,000 feet without an extremely serious and obvious reason. Which is why the questions continue to pile up around the sudden crash of the plane used by Jenni Rivera and her small entourage.
Now, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has formally opened an investigation into the matter, based on a laundry list of issues surrounding the owners of the plane. That would be Starwood Management, though the onion is just starting to peel on a very shady Starwood associate known as Christian Esquino.
According to details shared by the DEA with CNN, Starwood and Esquino are linked, though Starwood seems intent on distancing itself from this individual.
And the reason for that is rather obvious. Esquino, who also uses the name Ed Nunez (full name appears to be Christian E. Esquino Nunez), allegedly falsified plane records on behalf of Starwood in the past, which led to lawsuits from two insurance companies. Esquino has also previously been convicted of aviation fraud, including falsified records tied to cross-border sales planes into the United States.
But why is the Drug Enforcement Agency spearheading this investigation? Starwood has actually had two luxury jets previously seized by US federal marshalls, both in the United States (Texas and Arizona), though the DEA has not offered more details on these seizures. Separately, Esquino has been convicted in connection to a far broader drug bust in the 90s in Florida, and was deported following a brief, five-month sentence. Esquino's role seems tied to supplying aircraft for smuggling purposes.
Starwood, based in Las Vegas, is mostly keeping quiet on the matter. But Esquino has spoken to the Los Angeles Times, stating that Rivera was planning to purchase the plane that crashed, and that the terms of the deal were near-finalized. The fateful journey was just a free 'test ride,' according to Esquino, who also claimed to have no ownership in Starwood. The price tag for the plane, identified as a Learjet 25, was roughly $250,000.
The question now is whether any wrongdoing can be specifically tied to this plane or incident. And in all fairness to Esquino, there may not be any wrongdoing in this situation. According to reports, the plane itself has had some maintenance issues and one minor landing issue over its lifetime, though glaring safety problems have not been reported. In the Los Angeles Times interview, Esquino theorized that the 78-year-old pilot may have suffered a heart attack, with the copilot being unable to rescue the situation. Esquino himself was a pilot for many years.
News of the investigation came one day after forensic investigators confirmed the identity of Rivera's remains.