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Contraband
09/20/2013

San Francisco pilot and passenger each sentenced in west Texas to more than 3 years in federal prison following their drug smuggling guilty pleas

Defendants' plane met by CBP Air Interdiction as it landed in Lubbock, Texas

LUBBOCK, Texas — Two men who flew into Lubbock International Airport April 17 were each sentenced Friday to 37 months in federal prison for smuggling more than 150 pounds of marijuana and other drugs.

Michael Gallanter, 48, and Ethan Oliver Wynne-Wade, 31, both from San Francisco, Calif., each pleaded guilty in June to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms, but less than 100 kilograms, of marijuana. U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings ordered that they voluntarily surrender to the Bureau of Prisons next month.

These prison sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Air Interdiction, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Lubbock Police Department.

Gallanter and Wynne-Wade were arrested after they arrived in Lubbock, and were charged in a federal criminal complaint. On May 15, 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, CBP's Air Interdiction agents had received information that a Piper PA28-181 aircraft, tail number N342TA, was operating under suspicious circumstances. For example: the occupants of the aircraft paid for their fuel with cash; they fueled their own plane; they had a large amount of luggage in the aircraft's passenger compartment; and they departed in poor weather conditions. Agents also learned that the aircraft had been rented from the Travis Air Force Base Aero Club in Rio Vista, Calif., where some individuals renting aircraft were breaking flight rules and procedures.

CBP launched a Citation Interceptor Jet to try to locate the aircraft. On April 17, at about 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. At the agents' 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. The bags contained 98 plastic bags of marijuana, four plastic bags of hashish and two plastic bags of psilocin mushrooms. In total, agents located about 69 kilograms (150 pounds) of marijuana, four kilograms (nine pounds) of hashish, and 1.37 kilograms (three pounds) of psilocin mushrooms.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Cunningham, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.