Pilot of drug-laden plane pleads guilty


August 13, 2015 - 12:00 AM

WICHITA — A Denver man pleaded guilty to flying an airplane loaded with marijuana into Allen County Airport, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced.
Kenneth E. Weaver, 59, Denver, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. In his plea, he admitted that on July 11, 2014, he flew his plane into the airport southeast of Iola, loaded with 207 pounds of medical grade marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration administratively forfeited his plane — a 1979 Israel Aircraft Industries Model 1124 jet — and $457,580 in cash. Sentencing will be Oct. 5, recommended for 12 months by Grissom and the DEA. Grissom commended the Allen and Wilson counties sheriffs’ departments and Kansas Highway Patrol for their work on the case.
On July 11, 2014, Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy responded to a tip from the DEA and Highway Patrol that a plane might have landed at the local airport. The jet was taking on fuel when officers arrived.
“The jet was scheduled to land at Burlington, where DEA and KHP officers were waiting, but then was lost when it flew under radar and landed here,” Murphy said.
The plane’s tail number verified it was the suspected craft carrying what turned out to be many large parcels of marijuana.
Murphy and Deputy Anthony Maness checked the pilot’s identification, and found he lacked a pilot’s license or medical card. A check with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed he could not legally fly without a license, which gave local officers reason to keep the airplane grounded.
After officers arrived from Burlington, a drug dog from Wilson County was summoned. The dog, while walking around the plane, gave ample reason to suspect drugs were on it. A warrant signed by District Judge Dan Creitz permitted a search, which uncovered the marijuana.
Weaver was arrested. Murphy said Weaver had taken a commercial flight to California to pick up the plane he was flying, which had stopped in Carson City, Nev., before arriving in Allen County.

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