Authorities say they removed nearly 300 lbs of cocaine from an airplane (ICE)

Two Arrests Made in Unauthorized Plane Investigation

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Update 11:30 a.m. 

Federal court documents show United States Customs and Border Protection investigators found 132 bundles, each weighing about 1 kilogram, of suspected cocaine “secreted in the tail of the aircraft.”

Investigators opened three packages to find a “white powdery substance.”

“A review of various database revealed that both Desjardins and Ayotte have prior convictions for drug offenses in Canada,” a complaint filed Thursday in the United States District Court for the Southern District, Eastern Division of Ohio.

The investigation began when Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California, detected an aircraft north of Grand Bahama International Airport. Investigators identified the plain on a flight plan from Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

“The aircraft was observed diverting to Ohio University, Ohio, Gordon K. Bush Airport, which is not a Port of Entry,” court documents stated.

The pilot told investigators he was having mechanical issues, causing his landing in Albany.

Two men have been arrested on federal drug charges after landing a plane full of suspected drugs at Ohio University’s airport on Wednesday.

Sylvain Desjardins and David Ayotte, both Canadian nationals, are in the custody of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being found carrying nearly 300 lbs. of suspected cocaine on a Piper Navajo twin-engine aircraft, according to a release by ICE.

U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security plane at Ohio University's airport
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security plane at Ohio University’s airport

Both men have appeared in federal court in Columbus on charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

The arrests were made after the plane landed at the Gordon K. Bush Airport on Wednesday afternoon.  The Athens County Sheriff and OU Police Department were called by U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to assist with an aircraft about to land illegally in the United States,” the ICE release stated.

Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith said deputies detained the pilot and passenger until Homeland Security investigators could arrive, according to previous WOUB reporting.

As Customs and Border Protection Air Interdiction and Homeland Security Interdiction agents were interviewing the plane occupants, a canine unit “alerted to the aircraft which resulted in the discovery of nearly 300 lbs. of a powdery substance which was field-tested positive as cocaine,” the release stated.

Homeland Security is continuing to investigate the “drug-smuggling scheme,” ICE stated in the release.

“The agency is working the case jointly with (Customs and Border Protection), the Ohio University Police Department and the Athens County Sheriff’s Office,” according to the release.

Canadian authorities have also been contacted to assist.

WOUB’s full coverage from Wednesday can be read here.