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California pilot and accomplice arraigned on marijuana distribution charges

Pilot flew 75 pounds of marijuana into Peachtree-DeKalb Airport

ATLANTA - Igor Goldenshtein, 42, of Los Angeles, and Edward Akselrod, 36, of Tarzana, Calif., were arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Clayton Scofield, III on charges of conspiracy and possession of less than 50 kilograms of marijuana with intent to distribute, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"Those who think that Georgia is the place to smuggle narcotics to by aircraft or any other method are sorely mistaken," said Brock Nicholson, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in Atlanta. "Our agents are working in conjunction with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to ensure that drugs are kept off our streets and out of our communities."

ICE HSI special agents received a tip on July 19 that a small airplane had taken off from Hawthorne Municipal Airport just outside of Los Angeles, en route to Peachtree-DeKalb Airport (PDK) in Chamblee, Ga., with a load of marijuana.

At approximately 10:55 p.m., ICE agents observed the Cessna 400 aircraft land at PDK, with Goldenshtein at the pilot's controls as the sole occupant. Minutes later, Akselrod drove up to the aircraft in a rental vehicle and assisted Goldenshtein in moving several bags from the airplane into the vehicle.

Shortly after departing the airport, officers from the DeKalb County Police Department stopped Akselrod's vehicle and discovered several large bags in the vehicle containing individually packaged bags of marijuana, with a total weight of approximately 75 pounds.

"Federal agents and local officers worked together to intercept this shipment of illegal drugs before it made its way onto the street," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "We're working especially hard to make sure our local airports do not become a transportation channel for drugs, and we want pilots around the country to keep this in mind."

Goldenshtein and Akselrod were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 27. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following website: www.justthinktwice.com.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Herskowitz is prosecuting the case.