Former Atwater flight school owner gets probation for forgery and fraud

Daniel Yoon, the former co-owner of Sierra Academy of Aeronautics in Atwater, was sentenced to three years probation in Merced Superior Court on Tuesday after accepting a plea deal to misdemeanor charges of forgery and falsifying documents.

Yoon’s former business partner and flight school employees were present and spoke at the hearing before Judge Ronald Hansen. Yoon was not present. His defense attorney, C. Logan McKechnie, was there to represent him and enter a plea of no contest.

“This brings to a close a four-year case involving accusations of forgery and misgovernance of the Sierra Flight Academy,” said Walter Wall, the Merced County deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.

McKechnie declined to comment.

The academy, also known as KS Aviation, specializes in training commercial pilots from Asia, particularly from China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The school, located at Castle Commerce Center, has about 100 students and employs about 50 people.

Yoon was arrested in January 2016 and accused of signing the name of his business partner and co-owner of the flight school, John Yoon, on documents supporting the loan application, prosecutors said. Daniel Yoon and John Yoon are not related, authorities said.

The school was raided two days before Yoon’s arrest during an apparently unrelated federal investigation led by the U.S. Treasury Department. Officials have declined to comment on that case.

The former business partners engaged in a legal battle in a civil case in which Daniel Yoon was accused of trying to seize control of the flight school while John Yoon recovered from injuries suffered in a 2013 motorcycle crash.

Daniel Yoon agreed to step down as CEO in exchange for John Yoon dropping the civil case, Joshua Daniel, the human resources coordinator, previously told the Sun-Star.

In March, Daniel Yoon slapped KS Aviation with a civil suit seeking unlimited damages for breach of contract, court records show.

At least one flight school employee is suing Daniel Yoon for assault, failing to provide accurate check stubs, failing to pay overtime and more.

Hansen during Tuesday’s sentencing also barred Yoon from being the officer, manager or director of any California corporation while on probation.

The sole remaining owner of the flight school, John Yoon, and his employees said they thought the sentence was fair.

Wall agreed.

“I think justice has been done,” he said. “His removal from any corporation positions or boards was appropriate and the right thing to do.”

The flight school employees and current owner are happy to move on from the company’s troubled past, which they say is Daniel Yoon’s fault.

John Yoon said the company still struggles financially from his former partner’s actions.

“We’ve slowly seen the company destroyed from the inside,” said Steve Aguilar, a Boeing engineer at the flight school. “We’re glad it’s over. It’s a great company.”

Bob Deklinsky, a business operations director, said he was personally victimized by Yoon. “He used my name to acquire loans with Bank of the West that I did not and could not authorize,” Deklinsky said. “I think Mr. Yoon learned his lesson. ... Today’s conviction was fitting for Mr. Yoon.”

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477