Pilot And Passenger From San Francisco, Whose Plane Was Met By CBP Air Interdiction As It Landed In Lubbock, Plead Guilty To Federal Drug Charges
LUBBOCK, Texas — Two men, who flew into Lubbock and arrived at Lubbock Aero on Wednesday evening, April 17, 2013, Michael Gallanter, 48, and Ethan Oliver Wynne-Wade, 31, each appeared this morning before U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings and pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms, but less than 100 kilograms, of marijuana. They each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. Judge Cummings ordered presentence investigation reports with sentencing dates to be set after the completion of those reports. Both defendants remain on bond. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Gallanter and Wynne-Wade were arrested after their arrival in Lubbock and charged in a federal criminal complaint. Subsequently, on May 15, 2013, a federal grand jury in Lubbock indicted them for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, hashish and psilocin/psilocybin.
According to documents filed in the case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air Interdiction agents had received information that that a Piper PA28-181 aircraft, tail number N342TA, was operating under suspicious circumstances, in that the occupants of the aircraft paid for their fuel with cash, fueled their own plane, had a large amount of luggage in the aircraft’s passenger compartment and departed in poor weather conditions. Agents also had information that the aircraft had been rented from the Travis Air Force Base Aero Club in Rio Vista, California, where some individuals renting aircraft were breaking flight rules and procedures.
CBP launched a Citation Interceptor Jet in an attempt to locate the aircraft. On April 17, 2013, at approximately 10:15 p.m., CBP Air Interdiction agents contacted the aircraft to conduct a ramp check as it was about to refuel at Lubbock Aero, a refueling location located at the Lubbock International Airport. Agents identified Gallanter as the pilot and Wynne-Wade as the passenger.
CBP Air Interdiction agents met Gallanter as he deplaned and per their request, Gallanter provided them with the appropriate flight paperwork. After a drug detector dog alerted to the presence of drugs, the plane was then searched by federal agents. Agents located six large military-style duffle bags and four smaller bags inside the passenger compartment. Agents opened the bags and located 98 plastic bags of marijuana, four plastic bags of hashish and two plastic bags of psilocin mushrooms. In total, agents located approximately 69 kilograms of marijuana, four kilograms of hashish, and 1.37 kilograms of psilocin mushrooms.
The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), CBP Air Interdiction, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Lubbock Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Cunningham is in charge of the prosecution.