Airplane carrying drugs lands at Washington Airport
WASHINGTON, Iowa – Representatives for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa confirmed Friday that an incident involving law enforcement investigating a plane at the Washington Municipal Airport resulted in the seizure of a large shipment of marijuana.
The pilot, Angelo P. Efthimiatos, made an initial appearance in federal court in Davenport Thursday. He did not enter a plea and a public defender was appointed to represent him. He remains in jail pending a hearing today on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
According to court records, members of the Department of Homeland Security Air and Marine Operations Center were monitoring the flight and asked Washington police to inspect the pilot’s license and other documents. Efthimiatos claimed he would retrieve the documents from the plane, but said he could not find them after he looked in a briefcase, the complaint says. A trained police dog gave an alert to the presence of marijuana in the plane.
Investigators later found 55 pounds of high-grade marijuana during a search of the plane, which may have a street value of $220,000 or more, the complaint says.
After Homeland Security agents arrived at the airport, Efthimiatos admitted he was transporting drugs from California to the eastern part of the country and that this was his fourth or fifth trip. He explained others had loaded the marijuana onto the plane and he was planning to use a car to transport the marijuana to another location on the East Coast where it was to be retrieved by someone else.
On Wednesday, HSI public affairs officer Shawn Neudauer confirmed that an operation had taken place at the airport. He said that he provided all the information that he could share at the time.
“Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with local police, conducted a law enforcement operation yesterday [Thursday] at the Washington Municipal Airport in Washington, Iowa. As this operation concerns an ongoing investigation no further information is publically available at this time,” the release read.
Neudauer explained that HSI is a federal criminal investigative service, akin to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or Secret Service. He said that the agency is part of ICE, but the investigations aren’t limited to immigration. He said HSI’s focus concerns a broad range of laws that cover traditional customs violations.
He said Thursday that the HSI is still not commenting on the incident, as it is still an on-going investigation.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration database, the tail number of the plane stopped is a fixed wing, multi-engine 2002 Piper PA-34-2207 registered to Jack M. Cooper and Associates LLC in Wilton, Conn. While the business doesn’t have a Web site, Bizapedia.com lists it as a business consultant that has been operating for 11 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.