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Illegally smuggled military aircraft ordered forfeited to US government

AD-4N Skyraider aircraft to end up at National Naval Aviation Museum in Florida

AD-4N Skyraider aircraft
AD-4N Skyraider aircraft
AD-4N Skyraider aircraft cannons
AD-4N Skyraider aircraft cannons

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A federal judge in Alabama issued a forfeiture order for a Douglas AD-4N Skyraider aircraft after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) determined that it had been smuggled into the United States illegally.

On Dec. 21, Judge William M. Acker, Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama, ordered that the aircraft, log books, four 20mm M3 aircraft cannons and assorted aircraft parts be forfeited to the government as property brought into the United States in violation of U.S. law.

"The Skyraider aircraft, its cannons and parts are all subject to import licensing requirements as 'defense articles' under the Arms Export Control Act. Federal law prohibits the importation of defense articles without a license or permit," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans. "ICE aggressively investigates these cases in order to deter this type of illegal activity and protect those who abide by our nation's laws." Parmer oversees responsibility for the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Regulations and restrictions on the importation of defense articles exist in order to secure and protect the United States. Forfeiture is an appropriate remedy where a military aircraft is flown into the country without the proper authorization or license, under false pretenses and where an attempt was made to separately smuggle its cannons and assorted aircraft parts into the country.

The aircraft, owned by Claude Hendrickson, president of Dixie Equipment in Woodstock, Ala., was flown into the country in August 2008 without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of State. The pilot, who was hired by Hendrickson to fly the plane from France into the United States, provided false information to CBP officers at the Port of Buffalo, N.Y., to gain admittance into the country.

The 20mm cannons arrived at the Port of Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 8, 2008, inside two 40-foot shipping containers being imported by Dixie Equipment. CBP officers discovered the cannons concealed in a wooden box, hidden under aircraft parts in the nose of one of the containers, although the cannons were not listed on the entry form, bill of lading, invoice or any other documentation submitted by Dixie Equipment.

CBP officers seized the cannons and aircraft parts on Oct. 15, 2008. The HSI investigation following that seizure revealed the Skyraider aircraft had entered the United States illegally. HSI agents seized the plane pursuant to a court order on April 24, 2009, at the Bessemer Airport, where it had been delivered to Hendrickson in August 2008.

Neither the State Department nor the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had granted a permit, license or other written authorization for the importation of the Skyraider, the cannons or the aircraft parts at the time they entered the United States.

ICE HSI is now in the process of working to transfer the Skyraider aircraft, cannons, and assorted aircraft parts, including three Wright engines, to the U.S. Department of the Navy's National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., for the purpose of preserving the aircraft's value as a significant and lasting part of our nation's naval aviation history.

The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Ingram, Northern District of Alabama.