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Records show aviation company’s connection to GOP as questions over migrant flights loom

The owner of Vertol Systems Co. contributed thousands in personal and company funds to PACs and campaigns supporting GOP candidates, according to OpenSecrets.org.

TAMPA, Fla. — As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces criticism for using more than $1.5 million in taxpayer funds for chartered flights to send migrants to other parts of the country, 10 Investigates is learning more about the company, its owner and its support of the GOP.

Documents show James Montgomerie is the owner of Vertol Systems Company Inc., an aviation business first registered in Oregon back in 1996, and later converted to a Florida business in 2021.

According to campaign finance records from OpenSecrets, Montgomerie contributed $5,000 in 2017 to the North Florida Neighbors Super PAC in support of Republican candidate Neal Dunn for Congress. Montgomerie’s company also made a separate $5,000 contribution.

One of Dunn’s platforms as outlined on the North Florida Neighbors website is stopping illegal immigration.

Montgomerie is also listed as a $2,700 contributor to Matt Gaetz’s 2016 campaign for a U.S. House seat.

RELATED: Florida pays $615K to aviation company as part of migrant relocation program

Questions around Vertol Systems Company began surfacing when documents revealed the Florida Department of Transportation paid $615,000 to the company for a flight shuttling a group of mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.

FDOT made another payment to the company this week in the amount of $950,000.

RELATED: Records show Florida made another payment to aviation company that chartered migrant flights

10 Investigates also found where Vertol Systems Company is listed as a managing member of a Florida-based company called Zeppelin Holdings.

According to the Department of Justice, the owner of that company, Jay Odom, was sentenced to six months in federal prison in 2013 after he was convicted for “causing a presidential campaign committee to make a false statement to the Federal Election Commission (FEC)."

The DOJ said in 2013: “Odom directly and indirectly solicited employees of his business and their family members to each make the maximum allowable contributions to the authorized campaign of committee of a presidential candidate. The employees were encouraged to make these donations with the understanding that Odom would advance funds to or reimburse these individuals for their contributions.”

Odom admitted he knew this activity was illegal, the DOJ said in 2013.

Calls 10 Investigates made to both Odom and Montgomerie have not yet been returned.

Emerald Morrow is an investigative reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@10tampabay.com.

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