What happened to AeroVanti Sales VP Ben Ricketts?

Former AeroVanti sales boss Ben Ricketts’ LinkedIn profile shows he joined a Miami-based broker in January. Its owner says it is not true.

By Doug Gollan, April 3, 2024

Benjamin Ricketts, who served as VP of Sales at lawsuit-plagued AeroVanti, has moved on, at least according to his LinkedIn profile.

As of last night, his profile on the business networking site showed Ricketts as a broker at Miami-based Empress Jets since January.

Ricketts was named in multiple lawsuits while at AeroVanti.

His LinkedIn bio shows he worked at AeroVanti from January 2022 through last August.

He was promoted from Sales Director to VP in October 2022.

However, Nicole Garcia, the owner of Empress Jets, says Ricketts doesn’t work for her and never has.

AeroVanti Ben Ricketts

She says they had several conversations, but nothing came of it.

She was surprised when informed Ricketts listed her company as his employer and is requesting he take it down.

Garcia says Ricketts was hoping for a second chance, and she was sympathetic to his story of being caught in the middle of a bad situation.

However, he wanted a salary, and she could only pay a commission.

(Editor’s Note:  Ricketts contacted us after publication and provided copies of text messages with Garcia. They indicated that while Ricketts may not have consummated any business for Empress Jets or had a formal agreement, Garcia was actively assisting him with solicitations to book charters for her company.)

AeroVanti allegations

AeroVanti owes up to $50 million to members, aircraft lessors, trade vendors, and marketing partners, according to a former executive.

The 2021 start-up signed high-profile sponsorships with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Cubs, and US Sailing, among others.

Recently, the Cubs said they had to pay $3 million after AeroVanti allegedly failed to provide contest winners with flights.

The lawyer representing several groups of AeroVanti members says its Top Gun membership has the ‘hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme’.

The Department of Justice indicted founder Patrick Britton-Harr for alleged fraud in unrelated medical businesses.

The DOJ says Britton-Harr used some of those funds to launch the private flight club.

During its short life, AeroVanti promised flights for under $2,000 per hour and also launched a yacht club.

Members said AeroVanti consistently canceled flights at the last minute, while lessors said the flight provider failed to pay for the aircraft it was leasing.

The company is accused of using money members had provided to buy and refurbish airplanes for other purposes.

Members believed their funds were being used to pay for the sports partnerships. Scott Hopes, who briefly served as CEO, said AeroVanti had also stiffed the marketing partners.

The FAA had sent letters to members as part of an investigation into illegal charters.

The company claimed a growing fleet. But employees said only a few airplanes were typically airworthy, and lessors said their airplanes had been parted out.

Private Jet Card Comparisons exclusively reported that Britton-Harr’s entire fleet was grounded in June 2023, although the company denied this to other media.

We were also the first to report that its press release announcing that it raised $100 million in 2022 was untrue.

READ: Caveat Emptor: Avoiding private jet scams, bankruptcies, and shutdowns

Empress Jets

For her part, Garcia says she is a one-person show

Empress Jets was in the news in 2022 after signing an NFT memorandum of understanding with Dubai-based broker Jet Luxe.

According to a report in Business Airport International, “Jet Luxe’s MOU signing with Empress Jets coincides with the Empress platform and Metaverse being launched in Q1 2022. Memberships are minted as NFTs and members load their account with crypto or cash to pay for future flights.”

Garcia says the concept was an idea ahead of its time, and she is currently focused on building her on-demand charter book.

Related Articles

Visit DG Amazing Experiences

Find the perfect solution for your private aviation needs

Make the right decision

If you want a program-by-program comparison of more than 250 products from more than 50 companies covering 65 points of differentiation and over 40,000 data points.