Pilot And Passenger Of Plane That Crashed At Yoakum County Airport After Refueling Plead Guilty To Drug Charges
That Belly Landed at Airport in Plains, Texas
LUBBOCK, Texas — A pilot and his passenger, who belly landed their Beechcraft plane at the Yoakum County Airport on April 30, 2013, appeared this morning before U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings and pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge. Pilot Gregory Thomas, 50, of Sacramento, California, and his passenger, Dorothea Cangelosi, 66, of Waller, Texas, each pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana and aiding and abetting. They each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine, and will remain on bond pending sentencing. Judge Cummings ordered a presentence investigation report with a sentencing date to be set after the completion of that report. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
According to plea documents filed in the case, on April 30, 2013, deputies with the Yoakum County Sheriff’s Department (YCSD) responded to a plane crash at the Yoakum County Airport, in Plains, Texas. When they arrived, they observed a Beechcraft Bonanza A36 plane that had belly landed in a field approximately 50 yards past the end of the runway.
On April 29, 2013, the day before the crash, Cangelosi flew a commercial airline from Houston, Texas, to Sacramento, California, where she met up with Thomas, a charter pilot, who was paid approximately $5,000 cash to fly her from Sacramento back to Houston. They left Sacramento during the early morning hours of April 30, 2013, and in route to Houston, landed in Plains to refuel. After fueling, the plane encountered engine problems when attempting to take off and crashed.
The YCSD received a 911 call from an individual who reported seeing a female with bags by a road that runs parallel to the airport. Later, deputies located four large canvas duffel bags that were hidden next to a bush more than 100 yards from the crash site. A YCSD drug-detector dog alerted on the bags for the presence of drugs and deputies discovered 151 individual packages of marijuana, with a total weight of 72.8 kilograms or 160 pounds. The drug-detector dog also alerted to the presence of drugs inside the plane.
Thomas admits that after the plane crashed, he and Cangelosi retrieved the duffel bags from the plane’s passenger compartment and hid them more than 100 yards away, across two barbed-wire fences and a road, from the plane. Cangelosi admitted that Thomas carried most of the bags and threw some of them over the fence. They both admitted that they had intended to distribute the marijuana to other individuals in Houston.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the YCSD and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Cunningham prosecuted.