GREENEVILLE — A federal grand jury will consider the case of two men who allegedly used a private plane to transport more than 70 pounds of high-grade marijuana and were arrested early last week upon landing at the Johnson City Airport.
A preliminary hearing for Justin Laycock and David Cardwell was held Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. Each is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense.
According to court dockets, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Tracy Alexander testified at Monday's hearing that Cardwell and Laycock were found to be in possession of 77 one-pound packages containing marijuana that was "100 buds." Alexander also testified that the THC off the marijuana was "off the charts," and that the retail value of the marijuana possessed by Laycock and Cardwell was $462,000 to $616,000, whereas an equal amount of locally-produced marijuana would have a maximum value of $77,000, according to court documents.
"Proof presented at that hearing demonstrates an abundance of probable cause to believe that each of these defendants committed the offenses with which he is charged. Accordingly, both defendants are bound to the Grand Jury for further proceedings," U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis H. Inman wrote in his order to bound the case over the grand jury, which was filed following Monday's hearing.
Cardwell and Laycock were remanded to the custody of the Federal Marshal's Service. Future court dates in the case have not yet been scheduled.
Both Cardwell and Laycock were arrested on Nov. 18 after arriving at the Johnson City Airport, a privately-owned airport located on Watauga Road. According to an affidavit filed by Alexander on Nov. 19 in U.S. District Court, Alexander received information that Cardwell and Laycock would be flying a private plane to the Johnson City Airport, and that the plane would be carrying duffle bags containing marijuana. Alexander also wrote that he received information that the plane would be landing in Johnson City on Nov. 18.
DEA agents and other law enforcement officers set surveillance at the Johnson City Airport and awaited the arrival of Cardwell and Laycock. According to court documents, the plane landed at around 1 p.m.
Alexander's affidavit states Cardwell and Laycock were observed loading backpacks taken from the plane into Laycock's vehicle parked near the plane. The document also states Cardwell was observed loading three duffle bags into a vehicle driven by Laycock's brother, who arrived shortly after the two men landed.
Agents approached the men and after a search of the plane and the vehicle driven by Laycock's brother, authorities found approximately 75 pounds of "high quality compressed marijuana" in the duffle bags, according to court documents. In the backpack Cardwell had loaded into Laycock's vehicle, agents found Laycock's passport, a semi-automatic pistol and multiple loaded magazines, according to the affidavit.