In 2009, she was detained at the Mexico City airport when she declared $20,000 in cash but was really carrying $52,167. She was taken into custody. She said it was an innocent mistake and authorities gave her the benefit of the doubt and released her.
The Learjet 25, number N345MC, with Rivera aboard took off from Monterrey at 3:30 a.m. local time en route to Toluca, and was reported missing about 10 minutes later. It was registered to Starwood Management of Las Vegas, Nevada, according to FAA records. It was built in 1969 and had a current registration through 2015.
The cause of the accident has not been determined.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the twin-turbojet was substantially damaged in a 2005 landing mishap at Amarillo International Airport in Texas. It hit a runway distance marker after losing directional control. There were four aboard but no injuries. It was registered to a company in Houston, Texas, as the time.
The company is also subject of a federal lawsuit in Nevada.
QBE Insurance Corp. alleges that a Starwood aircraft was ordered seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration when it landed in McAllen, Texas, from Mexico on Sept. 12. The New York-based insurer sued in October to rescind coverage for the Hawker 700 jet.
Starwood, in a court filing, acknowledged that the DEA was involved in the seizure of the aircraft in McAllen.
QBE, based in New York, said the DEA also seized a Starwood-owned Gulfstream G-1159A — insured by another company — when it landed in Tucson, Ariz., from Mexico in February. Starwood said in its court filing that it didn't have enough information to address the allegation.
Nevada secretary of state records list only one Starwood officer — Norma Gonzalez — but QBE alleges that the company is owned and managed by Ed Nunez, who, according to the lawsuit, is also known as Christian Esquino and had a long criminal history.
Starwood rejected the insurer's description of Nunez's role at the company.
According to QBE's lawsuit, Esquino pleaded guilty in federal court in Orlando, Fla., in 1993 to conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine. The Florida complaint alleges that Esquino and 12 others participated in a scheme to bring large amounts of cocaine and marijuana to the U.S. and bribe a Bahaman official.
QBE said Esquino also served two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud involving an aircraft in Southern California in 2004. QBE said Esquino's attorney stated in court back then that his client had been under investigation by the DEA for more than a year.
Starwood said in its court filing that it didn't have enough information to address either the Florida or Southern California case against Esquino.
George Crow, an attorney for Starwood, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left after business hours Monday.
There have been several high-profile crashes involving Learjets, known as swift, longer-distance passenger aircraft popular with corporate executives, entertainers and government officials.
A Learjet carrying pro-golfer Payne Stewart and five others crashed in northeastern South Dakota in 1999. Investigators said the plane lost cabin pressure and all on board died after losing consciousness for lack of oxygen. The aircraft flew for several hours on autopilot before running out of fuel and crashing in a corn field.
Former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker was severely injured in a 2008 Learjet crash in South Carolina that killed four people.
That same year, a Learjet slammed into rush-hour traffic in a posh Mexico City neighborhood, killing Mexico's No. 2 government official, Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino, and eight others on the plane, plus five people on the ground.
Galia Garcia-Palafox wrote from Mexico City. Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this report from Mexico City and Elliot Spagat from San Diego.