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Canadian sentenced for interstate transportation of stolen plane

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - A Canadian national was sentenced to two years in federal prison Tuesday for flying a stolen airplane from Canada into the United States as authorities tracked his unauthorized flight through three states. This sentence resulted from a joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Thunder Bay Police of Ontario, Canada.

Adam Dylan Leon, aka Yavuz Berke, 31, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, was sentenced Nov. 3 in the Eastern District of Missouri to 24 months in prison for interstate transportation and importation of a stolen aircraft and illegal entry. Leon pleaded guilty in April to charges of flying a stolen Cessna from Canada into the United States.

According to court documents, Leon is a dual Turkish-Canadian citizen who was taking aviation classes at Confederation College of Applied Arts and Technology in Thunder Bay. On April 6, Leon stole a Cessna 172 training aircraft from Confederation College, took off without authorization, and piloted the aircraft southward across the U.S. border. He did not obtain approval from air traffic control for his flight and did not respond to radio contact.

Because of the unknown nature of the flight and Leon's lack of radio communication, U.S. and Canadian authorities coordinated a prompt response to ensure the public safety. U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) aircraft intercepted the Cessna after it entered U.S. airspace and closely tracked its progress. Repeated attempts to communicate with Leon were unsuccessful. After flying the plane southward for several hours, Leon landed the plane on a road adjacent to Highway 60 near Ellsinore, Mo. He was subsequently arrested by the Missouri Highway Patrol at a local grocery store.

"Illegally entering the United States in a stolen plane is tantamount to a breach of our nation's borders," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. "We work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify border security threats and investigate those who violate U.S. immigration and customs laws."

Assistant U.S. Attorney D. John Sauer, Eastern District of Missouri, successfully prosecuted the case.