They’re the Florida-funded flights that just keep raising questions.
Now newly released invoices from August show the company which provided the private jets, Ultimate Jetcharters, quoted a price of just over $153,000 for two flights that took place from San Antonio, Texas, to Bedford, Massachusetts, on September 14, 2022.
But that total is just a fraction of the more than $1.5 million Florida has already paid to Vertol Inc, the aviation company Florida hired to coordinate and facilitate all aspects of these migrant flights.
The controversial flights are part of the state’s new $12 million migrant relocation plan, which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has described as his answer to what he calls “Biden’s border crisis.”
Text messages we obtained as part of our ongoing records requests show the state’s contractor, Vertol Inc, started coordinating these flights at least a month before they took off.
The coordination involved some high-ranking Florida officials, including the Governor’s Chief of Staff, members of Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the state’s new public safety czar, Larry Keefe.
Texts show Keefe was intimately involved in coordinating the migrant flights from the beginning. Texts reveal Keefe worked hand in hand with Perla Huerta, a woman that migrants identified as recruiting them for the flights.
Texts in Spanish show “Perla” communicated with migrants’ days, even the night before the two flights to Martha’s Vineyard.
The newly released records from Vertol also reveal Martha’s Vineyard was just one of Florida’s planned destinations for migrants who state leaders wanted to relocate to sanctuary states even if the migrants weren’t even in Florida.
The other locations, dubbed “Project 2” and “Project 3,” called for relocating up to 50 individuals each to Delaware and Illinois. Vertol quoted those additional flights would cost Florida a total of $950,000.
While neither of those additional flights took place, state records show Floridians already paid for them.
We contacted the Governor’s office, Ultimate JetCharters and Vertol Inc for comment and more questions about the money spent on these migrant flights, but no one has responded to our requests.
The flights to Martha’s Vineyard have spawned a criminal investigation by the Bexar County Texas Sheriff’s office, an inquiry by the federal government about the use of funding for the flights, and a lawsuit by the migrants involved, who claim they were misled into taking the flights with promises of jobs and housing.