On the 7th of March 2008 a twin engine Beechcraft plane with a Venezuelan flag on its tail wing landed at mile 41 on the Northern Highway. It is believed that the aircraft was refueling when it was intercepted by authorities. An exchange of gunfire damaged the aircraft and it was abandoned by the drug-runners.
A search of the plane did not turn up any drugs, but 15 containers of jet fuel were found inside the plane. Police estimated that the craft carried over a ton of drugs.
After the incident police launched an intensive investigation and as a result nine persons were detained and charged. Anthony Thurton, Zacarias Copo, Picardo Rivera, Arnoldo Ricas, Victor Torres, Cesar Canche, Luis Novelo, Irvin Cantun and Roy Lanza were all charged in relation to the crime.
All of them with the exception of Roy Lanza were acquitted after the Department of Public Prosecutions ruled that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against them.
Roy Lanza appeared in magistrate’s Court today where he was charged for conspiracy in the illegal landing of an airplane. The prosecution presented two witnesses today - a Senior Justice of the Peace who testified that she was present at the time the caution statement was recorded, and Sergeant Jaime Ferrufino who was the detaining officer.
The Senior Justice of the Peace told the Court that when the caution statement was recorded Lanza was conscious of the process taking place. She stated that from her observation Lanza was not forced to sign anything and what he did was of his own free will. Lanza, however, rebutted her statement saying that he did not know what he was signing and that he only placed his signature on the paper because he was promised that everything would be fine if he signed.
In his statement Sergeant Jaime Ferrufino told the Court that he was the officer who detained Lanza. He explained that he saw Lanza and some other individuals coming out of the bushes at mile 44. Lanza was wet and when asked why he was in the area he said he was coming from a farm but he had no farming equipment with him. Today, in rebutting that testimony, Lanza insisted that he was coming from a nearby farm and that he was actually far from the area where the aircraft landed. The prosecution has more witnesses to call and the case was adjourned for next week. We’ll keep you updated.