A YouTuber admitted he lied to investigators about intentionally crashing a plane to boost views for a sponsorship deal video, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Trevor Jacob agreed to plead “guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Jacob’s pilot license has also been revoked.
The video in question, titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” was uploaded to Jacob’s YouTube channel on Dec. 24, 2021, and included a sponsorship from a company that sells wallets. As of Friday, the video had been viewed more than 3 million times, and the channel had some 138,000 subscribers.
The description for Jacob’s channel reads: “I love sharing adventures, stories, and things I’ve learned, with you.”
The video in question is nearly 13 minutes long, and opens with Jacob flying a small aircraft equipped with multiple cameras. Less than two minutes into the clip, the plane appears to suffer some kind of mechanical failure over California’s Los Padres National Forest, and Jacob jumps out and deploys a parachute. The plane crashes, unmanned. Jacob makes it to the ground and shows viewers some cuts he sustained. “I’m just so happy to be alive,” he says.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Jacob later told authorities he never intended to land the single-engine airplane, which he boarded and operated alone from Lompoc City Airport in November 2021. He had attached several cameras to the aircraft, packed a parachute and a selfie stick, and allegedly planned all along to film himself jumping from the plane and get footage of the crash.
The 29-year-old YouTuber carried out his plan and notified authorities two days later about the purported accident, federal prosecutors say.
Jacob had originally lied to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration that he couldn’t locate the wreckage, according to Thursday’s press release. In reality, Jacob and a friend allegedly picked up the wreckage on Dec. 10, 2021, via helicopter, took it to a trailer at Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, then drove it to Lompoc City Airport, where they stored it in a hangar. Later, Jacob allegedly destroyed the wreckage and discarded the pieces in multiple trash bins.
Jacob falsely told investigators that the plane lost power 35 minutes into the flight, according to the U.S. attorney’s office, and told an FAA inspector the engine malfunctioned.
He is expected to appear in court later this month.