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Rogue pilots trafficked a billion dollars in cartel drugs across US while no one watched

Robert Carlson, a California businessman who dreamed of becoming the cocaine king of the skies, used private jets for three years to funnel a billion dollars worth of cartel drugs through smaller airports across the country — exploiting a security blind spot. He did it over and over again, profiting off a rarely policed mode of transportation. And when he was finally busted in 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, it wasn't because of the X-ray scanner or drug-sniffing dog. That level of security at… ( More...

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David Garvis 31
Although General Aviation airplanes can be used for illicit drug-running, I find it reprehensible that Mr. Martinson can make such an irresponsible comment as, "There’s a good chance it could be illicit narcotics” when referring to all GA aircraft and pilots. Would you say all doctors are drug pushers because some doctors write false prescriptions or over prescribe narcotics? Are all marinas and boaters mere pawns on the drug-running cartels’ chessboards. I think not. Why then is Mr. Martinson’s generalization about general aviation fit to be in print? To me, a GA pilot who uses his aircraft for transportation to visit distant family and for personal enjoyment, they are another indication of how out of touch with its citizens our Government and its agents are. While Mr. Martinson is entitled to his own opinion in this context he should have kept his ignorance hidden and out of public eye.
idgie57 18
Equally irritating is the author's characterization of GA fliers as "the jet set" and "elite travelers." Jeepers criminey, it's not all movie stars on Learjets and Gulfstreams. Talk about perpetuating a stereotype...
Silent Bob 26
It's just another fear mongering click bait article designed to get people riled up, in order to justify even more government intrusion in the name of "safety". Regardless of political faction the government's primary mission is always to ensure its own sustainability. It will keep reaching and reaching until someone (the people) puts a stop to it.
Joe Pru 11
Exactly my thought on his statement about the 'good chance.' I can tell you that is a crock because I worked with Homeland Security on smuggling by aircraft and although it was popular in Florida and other locations, to say there is a good chance is a vast overstatement.
geroldn 21
Security exists at airports with airline traffic to prevent hijackings, not to search for drugs. Small airports serve general aviation and do not have this because small jets or prop planes are rarely hijacked, and if so are not crashed into skyscrapers. And even if a small plane hits a large building by accident or intentionally, its not going to bring it down with the loss of 1000's of lives.

Millions of cars, trucks, & buses are on the road every day, any one which can have drugs on board. Without probable cause or a warrant these vehicles are not searched. Why should small planes be singled out for warrantless searches? Why should every small airport have commercial airport security? We don't search drivers every time they get into their car or ask where they are going.
How many lives are lost every year to drugs? We lost 3,000 on that one fateful day in 2001. We lost 64,000 people to drugs in 2016 alone.

And that doesn't count the other destroyed lives from drug addiction and the crime accompanying the illegal drug trade.

One small private plane operating year-round doesn't need to crash into a skyscraper to exact a heavy toll.
user3956 4
The difference is that 9/11 killed innocent people while drug deaths are the people using drugs or trafficking and the subsequent violence. At the end of the day law will never be able to stop drug usage, but through educational programs and legalization we could at least reduce the deaths due to trafficking. Take the crime out of the drug game and just make it as legal as alcohol and cigarettes which ALSO exact a heavy death toll each year. Humans want drugs, why do some people ignore this?
Ian McAlister 2
You could pack as much, if not more, into a van or pickup a lot more cheaply than it would cost to fly a jet cross country. A small used private jet will cost around $1 million to buy. Operating costs (maintenance, fuel, pilots, insurance, etc) will easily be $1000 or more per hour. Round trip coast to central US will run a minimum of 5 hours, more if you’re in a slower aircraft or make multiple drop offs and pickups. Top that off with needing to find pilots stupid enough to risk their careers for that kind of operation and hiring a couple of numbskulls to drive a car, truck, or van cross country starts to make a whole lot more sense. The story just doesn’t carry weight beyond click bait status.
But remember, time is money.
a road trip from Laredo to Minneapolis is showing about 20h. Flight time is just under 5h.

not to mention the risk level. 20h on the road, you have 1400 miles for any number of traffic stops. plus, what's to stop those numbskulls stopping in oklahoma and selling off the product to someone else, and skipping away to never be heard from again?

i imagine there are large risk calculations done and prices are adjusted accordingly. They want to make sure their product gets delivered, cost is a secondary factor.
Ian McAlister 3
You still have to find a crew willing to jeopardize their livelihood for such an endeavor. A lot of time and money goes into getting to the point of being a corporate pilot. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice that the cargo is suspicious, especially since pilots are generally loading the plane themselves. If baggage routinely doesn’t match the passenger count and supposed mission, it would be awfully suspicious, and there aren’t many cargo loads that would warrant routine transport aboard a private aircraft. Most pilots that I know would not stick around in that kind of high risk operation, and an anonymous tip would likely find its way to the authorities.
John Yarno 4
The article mentioned that the majority of GA pilots are more then willing to report these illegal actions when they see and recognize them. I have no way of knowing, but would bet hard cash that the bad guys represent a tiny fraction of GA pilots. So rather than being likely, that when you see a GA aircraft overhead it is carrying contraband, there is a slim possibility that it is. Not even worth mention.
How ludicrous! The vast majority of private aircraft in this country are 30-40-50-60+ year old Pipers, Cessnas and Stinsons. My 45 year old Cherokee 140 (that I've owned for 34 years) is used to "ferry" groceries and beer and hardware from Charlevoix to Beaver Island, Michigan. It's amazing when I tell people I have a "private plane" they assume it's a jet!?! Ya right ....
john doe 3
Ugh. Sensationalism and "click on me!!!" nonsense.
James Simms 4
Long held local rumor that Vaiden Airport (@ 6300 feet located NW of Selma, AL) in rural Perry County, AL used to have a lot of drug traffic. Vaiden was an Auxiliary Outlying Field of long closed Craig AFB in Selma
6300 feet of elevation?
Highflyer1950 4
6400’ runway length, 220’ elevation above sea level.
AAAAHHHHH clear, now. Thanks!
Highflyer1950 1
No woories.
Highflyer1950 3
or worries LOL.
Kenneth Seals 1
Vaiden was addressed in TheStreet Agent ,a book by a retired F B I agent. He was right on with observations about some people that I knew so I assume that Vaiden was active.
a1brainiac 2
As long as the US is the biggest consumer of drugs......drugs and people move and guns move South.....Wall or no wall
Reminds me of the time I 'ferried' several millions of Yugoslavian dinars (devalued) from Zagreb to Belgrade.
bbabis 6
No telling how many tons of drugs came into Mena with cash and guns going out that was protected by Governor Clinton at the time. Yes, the crime family has been active for a long time.
Lived in East Texas and Mena Arkansas is the real deal. Mena is hiding in plain sight.
The evidence is in those 13K emails that have disappeared. There is also proof and evidence about the secret contrails program. People connect the dots!
EMK69 6
Not surprised it started after major funding was cut back in the the 90's. We had a semi handle on this, yes I said we, working 12 to 15 hour days putting a dent into the drug cartel's operations.

Along comes a POTUS who smoked but didn't inhale making a joke of it and funding was cut and has been cut ever since.

Now America is hooked on their drugs even in our current business. As my ex-wife warned me way back put your anti-drug job before your family and one day you will wake up and realize America doesn't give a shit. Now I look back and wonder how many ball games did I miss seeing my son play, how many awards did he get while I chased down the bad guys...for what...not a damn thing America continues its thrust for drugs.

Welcome to the real world.
user3956 1
Sad but true, thank you for your service however. Also, for readers, remember Obama also wrote in his book about marijuana and cocaine usage. Presidents, citizens...we're a nation of drug users and drug abusers. Be it caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other narcotics, it's just reality and will never change.
WhiteKnight77 2
Nowadays, with a few exceptions, I would expect more politicians to have at least smoked weed. At least be honest about it and not do so, at least while in office. That will surely be the case in the future.

Will we ever be able to stop drug usage? No, but at least legalizing weed at the federal level with a federal tax on it would take out the need to smuggle it anywhere in the US. Use the same laws we use for drunk driving for those who are busted for driving while stoned.
william baker 3
You know the DEA should know the made a movie about this.
user3956 1
Right? I was thinking this sounded familiar lol
Harry Venison 3
You mean the Super Extreme Mega Border Wall didn't stop them !!! fake news. /END <sarcasm>
user3956 4
Well considering that it hasn't been completed, but "the wall" isn't even intended to STOP anything, it's intended to be one component in a series of things designed to discourage illegal immigration, not drug trafficking because we all know that IF it was possible to design a wall that would halt trafficking then the product would still find its way through highway border checkpoints just like it does today stuffed in tires and whatever else. There is nothing wrong with having a wall on a border especially when you have the differences in standards of living that exist between Mexico and the US. It's common sense that a wall, combined with BP agents, combined with satellites and drones, is needed to prevent an all-out inundation of foreigners into our country. Notice that the world's longest unfortified border exists between Canada and the US? That's possible because not every Tom, Dick, and Harry in Canada wants to sneak into the US. It's not possible with Mexico and if you look around the world, MANY nations have walls and fortified borders with their neighbors, it's a normal thing if you can think outside of the bubble of America that you live in. Get real man. Lastly, the concept of a wall wasn't such a huge deal when the OBAMA admin approved funds for it long before Trump - google it if you don't believe it. The dems politicized it after they themselves approved money years prior and Obama even said it was needed to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Educate yourself please. Also realize that the border ALREADY HAD A WALL for many hundreds of miles before any of this recent political bs, so over the previous decades people actually had sense and realized that a wall was a good thing, it's nothing new dude.
lynx318 2
Space Force isn't slowing it down either.
jmilleratp 3
Not surprised. Hundreds of billions of dollars combined go to our military, law enforcement, intelligence services, etc. While so much of it is deployed overseas, our own borders are left far to open.
Huge, huge loophole for drug traffickers. This could be solved easily by training and spending some well-spent money. The cost is negligible compared what is spent dealing with the drug problem after it gets into the community.


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