Friday, January 06, 2012

Prosecutors want to ground flying dope dealer

Colorado pilot flew drugs into Wings Field (KLOM), Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

James M. Handzus

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania -

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele Friday filed notice that he will seek a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years in jail and a fine of $50,000 for James Handzus at the time of his sentencing.

Handzus, 51, of Rifle, Colo., was convicted in November of flying into the county to sell more than a pound of crystal methamphetamine.

No sentencing date has been set for Handzus.

Authorities nabbed Handzus and now former girlfriend, Tamara L. Vincent, in April after they attempted to sell a pound of high quality crystal methamphetamine to an undercover detective.

Vincent, 41, pleaded guilty to drug dealing charges. The prosecution has not filed any similar notice that it will ask for a mandatory minimum sentence for Vincent who, like Handzus, is being held in the county prison without bail while waiting for her sentencing hearing.

An informant tipped off authorities last spring that Handzus, who has family in the region and who owned a 1959 Piper Comanche airplane, visited the area two and three times a year to sell two and three pounds of crystal methamphetamine, according to the criminal complaint.

A detective, using Facebook, established Handzus and his girlfriend intended on visiting the area in April 2011.

On April 21, 2011, detectives confirmed that Handzus had flown his plane, bearing the name "My Lady," to Wings Field and that the aircraft still was at the airfield.

The undercover detective, posing as a drug trafficker, subsequently was able to contact Handzus on April 22 and meet the couple at a local restaurant in Plymouth where an agreement was reached for the detective to purchase a pound of crystal methamphetamine for $27,000. The one pound of crystal methamphetamine has a street value of between $64,000 and $76,800, according to testimony.

Vincent handled the price negotiations for the transaction, according to testimony. Also, the pair told the detective that, in the future, they could deliver as much as 5 to 10 pounds of the drug to him and that he would receive a price break for purchasing 5 pounds or more.

The detective gave the couple a $2,000 deposit on the 1-pound purchase. Telling the detective that the methamphetamine was in their luggage, the couple told him to remove the luggage from their car and, using his car, take them to their hotel room where the actual deal would take place.

The couple was taken into custody after the luggage was removed from their vehicle.

In testifying, Handzus admitted giving the detective a small sampling of methamphetamine. However, he denied that the approximate one pound of the drug found in couple's luggage belonged to them. Instead, he testified, it likely was planted by the informant.

Montgomery County Judge Joseph A. Smyth, who presided in the two-day nonjury trial, did not buy Handzus' explanation. Smyth convicted Handzus on charges of delivering drugs, possessing drugs with the intent to deliver and related charges.


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