Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pilot pleads not guilty to flying pot into Fitchburg airport

WORCESTER — An Oregon man who allegedly piloted a small plane carrying 74 pounds of marijuana from California to Fitchburg last year pleaded not guilty to a marijuana trafficking charge this morning in Worcester Superior Court.

Hoang H. Nguyen, 31, was arrested Sept. 27 by state troopers and federal agents after the plane landed at the Fitchburg airport. A state police dog alerted authorities to the presence of narcotics and, after obtaining a search warrant, investigators said they found three duffel bags filled with marijuana, along with $77,000 in cash.

Documents on file in Fitchburg District Court indicate Mr. Nguyen, a former commercial pilot and flight instructor, left Santa Monica, Calif., on Sept. 26 and stopped at an airport in Grundy, Ill., to rest. An airport manager there contacted officials at the Homeland Security Air Marine Operations Center after seeing Mr. Nguyen pay cash for fuel and then sleep in his plane with two large suitcases, according to the documents.

A Homeland Security Interdiction Plane followed Mr. Nguyen's plane to Fitchburg, the records show.

State police said the marijuana had a bulk value of about $370,000.

Mr. Nguyen, formerly of Hillsboro, Ore., is now living in Garden Grove, Calif., according to records in Worcester Superior Court, where his case was transferred after he was indicted Feb. 9.

At the request of Assistant District Attorney Timothy M. Farrell and Mr. Nguyen's appointed lawyer, Leonard J. Staples, Judge James R. Lemire released Mr. Nguyen on previously posted bail of $5,000 cash and continued his case to June 6.

As a condition of release, Mr. Nguyen was ordered to report once a week to the Probation Department by telephone.

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