Johnson City Press Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crime Local News

Second man in local pot-flying operation given prison term

May 15th, 2014 9:03 pm by Brad Hicks

Second man in local pot-flying operation given prison term

GREENEVILLE — The second of two men arrested late last year for using a private airplane to transport more than 70 pounds of marijuana to the Johnson City Airport was sentenced to a year and 9 months in prison Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.

Justin Donald Laycock was also sentenced to two years of supervised release after finishing his prison term. U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer also ordered Laycock to forfeit his 1961 Cessna 210A airplane, a .22-caliber handgun found in his possession and three magazines for the firearm.

In December, Laycock, along with co-defendant David M. Cardwell, agreed to plead guilty to guilty to an information charging each man with conspiracy to distribute a quantity of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana.

Laycock and Cardwell conspired to distribute 77 pounds of marijuana, according to court documents filed at the time of their plea agreements. On Nov. 15, Laycock and Cardwell agreed to fly Laycock’s private plane from Tennessee to California to obtain marijuana. They then agreed to fly the marijuana back, contained within three duffle bags, back to Tennessee, according to court documents.

Drug Enforcement Agents in east Tennessee received information that a private plane transporting marijuana would be arriving at the Johnson City Airport, a privately owned airport located on Watauga Road. Authorities began surveilling the facility on Nov. 18, and at around 1 p.m. that day, the plane piloted by Laycock arrived, according to law enforcement officials.

Laycock and Cardwell were observed speaking on cell phones, and Cardwell was seen loading a backpack into Laycock’s vehicle parked nearby, according to authorities. Officials also said that Laycock’s brother arrived at the airport a short time later, and the three men were observed loading the duffle bags into the vehicle driven by Laycock’s brother.

According to court documents, agents approached the men, and after a search of Laycock’s plane and the vehicles, found the duffle bags containing 77 pounds of marijuana, which was “pure bud” and was labeled as to the type of marijuana. Buds are the most powerful — and profitable — part of the marijuana plant.

In the backpack Cardwell had loaded into Laycock’s vehicle, officials found Laycock’s passport, a semi-automatic pistol that Laycock said belonged to him, and loaded magazines for the pistol, according to court documents.

At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Greer recommended that Laycock receive any available substance abuse treatment from the Bureau of Prisons, as well as educational and vocational classes and training to learn a “trade or marketable skills” while incarcerated.

Cardwell was sentenced on May 7 in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. He was sentenced to serve a year and six months in prison followed by a term of two years of supervised release.

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