Wednesday, July 19, 2017

3 Accused of Trafficking Marijuana by Plane from California to Connecticut

STRATFORD — The flights were high and loaded with marijuana. 

Now a federal grand jury in New Haven has indicted Donald Burns, 59, of Milford, the pilot and two alleged distributors Robert Capelli, 31, and Scott Bodnar, 38, of Ansonia with trafficking at least 2,200 pounds of marijuana by airplane.

Shortly after Burns landed his Piper-single engine aircraft June 29 at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, law enforcement agents searched the plane and discovered a duffel bag containing 880 pounds of marijuana in vacuum sealed packages.

Authorities learned the marijuana was to be delivered to Capelli and Bodnar so they arranged for that to happen in Derby. The men were then arrested.

The Federal Aviation Administration began investigating Burns in 2016 after becoming aware that his plane was making frequent flights from Sikorsky to northern California with stops in Texas or Arkansas.

On June 28, 2017, they tracked a flight. The plane left northern California and stopped in Lubbock, Texas. The following day it flew from Lubbock to Arkansas and then West Virginia before landing at Sikorsky where it was searched and the marijuana found.

The three-count indictment alleges that from 2015 to June, 2017, the trio moved more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from northern California to Connecticut.

The indictment charges the three with conspiring to possess and distribute 2,200 pounds of marijuana which carries a minimum 10-year prison term and a maximum of life upon conviction.

Additionally they are charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute 220 pounds of marijuana found aboard a U.S. registered aircraft and possession with the intent to distribute 220 pounds of marijuana. Both charges carry a mandatory five year prison term with a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Neither Tara Knight, who represents Bodnar or Audrey Felsen, Burns’ lawyer could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The aircraft is subject to government forfeiture.

The three have been released on bond. Bodnar’s bond was set at $250,000 and Burns’ at $300,000. No details were available for Capelli.

They are expected to plead not guilty to charges next week. Their case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton who sits at the federal courthouse in New Haven.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale is prosecuting the case which was investigated the Federal Aviation Administration’s Law Enforcement Assistance program as well as Bridgeport, Derby and Stratford police.

Three men accused of trafficking marijuana by airplane from California to Connecticut have been arrested on federal charges.

Deirdre Daly, the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said in a statement that a federal grand jury in New Haven returned a three-count indictment today charging Robert Capelli, 31, of Milford; Scott Bodnar, 38, of Ansonia, and Donald Burns, 59, of Milford.

Federal officials said the Federal Aviation Administration began investigating Burns’ Piper single-engine aircraft, which was making regular flights between Stratford and northern California, via the southwest United States, in 2016. 

Over a two-day span in June, Burns flew from northern California to Lubbock, Texas, then to Arkansas, West Virginia and Stratford, Connecticut, where he landed at Sikorsky Airport. When law enforcement searched the plane, they found around 400 kilograms of marijuana in vacuum-sealed packages in a duffle bag, federal officials said.

As the investigation continued, authorities said they determined the marijuana was intended for Cappelli and Bodnar and conducted a controlled delivery in Derby, where the two men were arrested.

The three are accused of trafficking more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from California to Connecticut between 2015 and June 2017.

They have all been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. 

They were also charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana on board an aircraft registered in the U.S., and one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

No comments:

Post a Comment