TUCSON, ARIZ.—On Monday, May 13, Customs and Border Protection Office of Air Marine Detection Enforcement Officers at the Riverside, Calif., Air and Marine Operations Center began tracking a suspicious aircraft that had departed from northwestern Nevada.
A DEO at the AMOC tracked the aircraft to landing at Tonopah, Nev., and it was identified as a Cessna 172. The pilot paid with cash after refueling and a large amount of luggage was seen piled high in the back of the aircraft.
Federal Aviation Administration checks on the registered owner of the aircraft revealed an expired medical certificate and possible expired FAA aircraft registration. As the aircraft departed to the east, AMOC requested the Tucson Air Branch to scramble an aircraft to intercept and confirm the status of the pilot's medical certificate and aircraft registration.
The Tucson Air Branch launched an OAM Cessna Citation to intercept the suspect aircraft at its next point of landing in the Albuquerque, N.M. area. The FAA was advised of the law enforcement response and the CBP Cessna would be landing behind the suspect aircraft.
Additional responders included the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque-based Department of Homeland Security Investigations duty agent with K-9 support.
After the CBP aircrew identified the pilot as the registered owner with an expired medical certificate, a K-9 inspection was conducted which resulted in the discovery of approximately 40 pounds of marijuana. The pilot was taken into custody and the aircraft was seized by HSI.
"This is a great example of how the Tucson Air Branch protects America's homeland," said Tucson Air Branch Director Mitch Pribble. "In addition to border security on the ground, Air and Marine is committed to vigilance in the sky and the waterways."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.