New Castle News

December 18, 2013

UPDATE: Plane search leads to discovery of more than $1 million in pot

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A Utah man transporting marijuana by plane was intercepted by authorities in Union Township and placed in Lawrence County jail.

Law enforcement officials seized 242 pounds of what Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa described as “high-grade” marijuana with an estimated street value of $1.2 million.

The plane’s pilot, Ken Barton Burrows, 53, of Orem, Utah, has been charged by state police with manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and intent to possess a controlled substance. His plane was stopped and boarded in New Castle Friday night after the Federal Aviation Administration monitored its cross-country flight from Utah to California, then to New Castle.

Lamancusa said authorities had allowed Burrows to fly out of New Castle Monday to complete his trip to Rhode Island, where the alleged recipient of the marijuana was arrested Tuesday.

Lamancusa described how Burrows’ unusual flight led to the interception of his plane at the New Castle Airport by officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, using a helicopter.

According to the district attorney, Burrows employed a zig-zag course at low altitude that avoided radar and large airports, using smaller landing strips to refuel.

Lamancusa also noted the plane, which was seized by the government, had its windows blacked out to make it more difficult to see.

According to state police, the Pittsburgh field office of Homeland Security Investigations received a call Friday from Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Division in Riverside, Calif., that they had been investigating a brown and green, single-engine Cessna airplane that had departed from an airport in northern California Thursday and headed toward the East Coast.

When federal authorities examined the plane on the ground in New Castle, Lamancusa said, he was contacted and other local law enforcement were called out. In addition to the state police intervention unit and the district attorney’s drug task force, Union and Mahoning township police responded.

Lamancusa said Mahoning’s new police dog, Vex, was used and gave a positive indication for the presence of illegal narcotics. A search warrant was obtained and as a result of the search, the marijuana was seized from the aircraft, police said.

Although Burrows was taken into custody and arraigned by District Judge Scott A. McGrath, who set his bail at $250,000, authorities had the pilot released in order to complete his flight and make what Lamancusa called a “controlled delivery” of the marijuana.

Additional charges will be filed in Rhode Island.

Lamancusa said jurisdictional matters will have to be worked out in the case, including which agencies will receive proceeds from the seizure of Burrows’ airplane. Lamancusa said Burrows had purchased the Cessna about a year ago for $165,000 in cash.