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Pilot in PTC drug smuggling case found not guilty

A Texas charter pilot was found not guilty this week of drug charges for flying two men and more than 380 pounds of cocaine into Peachtree City’s airport.

Donald Fontana, a retired Delta pilot, claimed in federal court that he did not know his clients on the August 2009 flight were smuggling drugs. Instead, the clients told him they were engaged in the oil business, according to testimony in court.

The August 2009 shipment was intercepted by federal and local drug agents after a high-speed chase that stretched from north Peachtree Parkway to Ga. Highway 54 near Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

One of the drug smugglers testified for the government about Fontana being paid $17,000 in cash for the flight to Peachtree City, but defense attorneys alleged that was a similar amount to what Fontana’s legitimate clients paid him for charter flights.

Rene Perez, who has already pled guilty to federal drug charges, testified that during one of the several flights the odor of marijuana could be smelled easily.
He also testified that the bags loaded into the plane weighed between 400 and 600 pounds.

Fontana’s wife testified there were never any drugs in their home.

Other co-defendants in the trafficking case have also pled guilty including Rene Perez’s nephew, Adrian Perez, and Jorge Olivo, who picked up the drugs at Falcon Field when the shipment arrived from Zapata, Texas.

Olivo drove the Ford Explorer that was stopped by authorities with the 380 pounds of cocaine inside. He also pled guilty to using a weapon while committing a drug crime.

Olivo faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years, while Rene Perez faces a sentence of 20 years and Adrian Perez 10 years.



suggarfoot's picture

OMG! Please! If they were, it would be a first!

Delta pilots get paid so much, and their retirement pensions are staggering, and that wasn't enough for him? What a creep. If you want to look at who is just as responsible as the drug dealers for your kids on dope, you wouldn't have to look behond this guy would you? He may have gotten off, but we all know the law isn't always just.

Delta pilots get paid so much minus %45. Retirement pensions are long gone. You, sir/madam are an idiot.

Indeed the law isn't always just, suggarfoot.
This pilot (who isn't a Delta pilot btw) was doing his job and flying folks around for a living. He didn't make piles of money and he isn't required to search his passengers before he flies them. Now an innocent man got out of prison after 7 months and has piles attorney's fees to pay. His plane's been taken and he probably won't want to fly after this. Nice retirement, huh? I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Hope no one in your family is falsly accused. Think about that next time you give a friend a ride...does he have drugs in his pocket? Oops, there goes your freedom and your car.

suggarfoot's picture

He is a ...retired...Delta pilot. You know the more you stirr vo do...the more it stinks...I googled this, because you won't let it alone, and found this. The Citizen was kind.

"However, during closing arguments, U.S. attorney David Suchar claimed from October 2008 to August 2009, the defendant deliberately "turned a blind eye" to what should have been suspicions that drugs and contraband were in the bags of Perez, who had made several single trips to Peachtree City.

Suchar said many of those trips contained approximately four to six bags that were 100 pounds each, flying from Zapata, an area near the Mexican border, known for drug-related activity. Prosecutors addressed several other factors they believe holds Fontana accountable for his role in the crime, including payments of up to $17,000 "in bundles of cash" that he received from Perez.

According to testimonies in the case, in one instance, the handle on one of Perez's drug-filled bags broke, causing it to give off a pungent smell of marijuana that prosecutors said Fontano should have smelled due to the plane's close quarters.

"Fontana even jokingly asked if there were $100 bills in one of the heavy bags," said Suchar.

He noted witnesses as well as Fonatana should have taken notice of $20 to $40 tips given to ramp staff.

Defense attorney Page Pate spoke about the charges in his closing argument, saying "there was no evidence that he recognized the problem" or that the defendant "turned a blind eye to the illegal contents in the bags." Though the Texas area is known for drug crimes, he noted that Fontana had visited that area before to do oil business and real estate business.

Fontana's family and friends also testified to his character during the trial, saying he is a church-going man. His wife also took the stand, who said, drugs have no place in her home."

And to some it up, a comment at the bottem of the article

"Aaron Copper writes: This is bullcramp. He knew what he was doing he came into an airport that I work at numerous times with questionable passengers and luggage that everyone knew contained drugs.Don might have talked the talk but he chose to walk on the other side. It's not what you know it's what you can prove."

Can a general aviation plane take off from Falcon Field and end up in Mexico at some point without passports or any normal check?

When the plane above in question landed at Peachtree City was it booked as coming from Mexico, or was it coming from an intermediate USA field by flight plan?
If so what intermediate field?

If there are landing fields here that do not have customs agents, then I'm sure Mexico has more of them.
Wouldn't "boxes" from Mexico in a plane landing at Falcon field from Mexico be required to land at a customs field?

Enough tons of dope enters this country every day to supply all of our imbibers obviously because they do have it to take. Is this method just one more way it is done?

Does our general aviation family know any details about this?

Blv the drug flight came from Zapata, TEXAS, not Mexico.

You are obviously very naive and uninformed. Before you make comments like the above you should understand what you're talking about. Rzz, I agree completely with your comment.

God bless the ignorant, since yall def. need it

suggarfoot's picture

Your retirement may have been cut by Delta, but hey, join the club. Many Delta retirees don't have as much as they want, but they are not out hauling 'Mexican oil men' around.

There are many good ex retired Delta people, both pilots and ground.

Not all should be smeared with the same brush, if that is what it appeared, for that I will say I'm sorry. I know there are many good pilots out there.

Case in point. When ..some...of the Delta pilots pulled their 'grinch' deal several years ago, not all pilots agreed with them. I know, because I gave back my Christmas holiday to go out there and work. I felt the public shouldn't suffer because some were throwing a temper tantrum cause they were not getting a raise and calling in sick for work at Christmas. I had to stand there and look at some pilots that showed up with their grinch ties on, to support their cause, and their friends that sicked out.

I also saw pilots out there, that felt as I did. They had on NO grinch ties, and were giving up their Christmas as well because this group threw their little fitt. They were the good guys.

Some will always feel they need more and the end justifies the means.

But the guts of the comments were directed to the fact that the people that enable the dopers are just as guilty of putting drugs in our kids hands as the dopers.

The plane had .."380..POUNDS of cocaine" on it, which is VERY addictive.

"Rene Perez, who has already pled guilty to federal drug charges, testified that during "one of the several flights" the odor of marijuana could be smelled easily.

He also testified that the bags loaded into the plane weighed between 400 and 600 pounds."

I'm not saying the man was guilty or not, I don't know. I do feel, at the least, he was very stupid!

I do know that the government prosecutors are very overloaded. They don't normally go after a pilot caught in something like this. The fact that this happened more than once, and one of the dopers appears to tesitifying against him, may be the reason for the case.

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