Cocaine found during October airplane search
A Colorado man in custody since October when agents discovered nearly 72 pounds of cocaine in his private airplane at Baton Rouge Metro Airport will plead guilty to a federal drug conspiracy charge, one of his attorneys confirmed Tuesday.
Vincenzo “Vincent” Salzano, 55, of Aurora, Colorado, will plead guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, lawyer Jim Boren said.
“We reached an agreement with the government,” Boren stated.
Salzano’s 32-year-old son, Armando Salzano, of Littleton, Colo., pleaded guilty in January to drug charges in the case and is scheduled to be sentenced July 30. He faces up to five years in prison.
A date has not been set for the elder Salzano’s guilty plea. Boren said he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Stevens earlier this month filed a “Notice of Intent to Enter Guilty Plea” in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge in Vincent Salzano’s case.
The elder Salzano, who has a previous conviction for cocaine distribution, was indicted in January by a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge on one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Salzano, his son, and son-in-law Mohammad I. Nekouie were arrested Oct. 7 after federal agents searched the Beechcraft 58P twin-engine plane that had stopped in Baton Rouge to refuel on its way to Atlanta. A criminal complaint filed against Nekouie on Oct. 10 was dismissed in January at the government’s request.
The plane had flown from Atlanta to the McAllen, Texas, area near the border with Mexico, and remained in south Texas for just three hours before turning around and stopping in Baton Rouge to refuel. Court documents indicate the plane’s suspicious flight plan alerted federal agents and prompted the search of the plane.
At Metro Airport, agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection explained to Vincent Salzano their concerns about drugs being smuggled across the Mexican border. He allowed the agents to search the plane and their initial sweep turned up nothing, according to a criminal complaint.
At some point, both Salzanos went to use the restroom. Meanwhile, agents walked around the plane and, peering through a window, noticed a black gym bag in the aisle of the passenger area. The bag contained several “kilo-size bundles” wrapped in tape that tested positive for cocaine.
A Baton Rouge Police Department K-9 dog later sniffed out a second gym bag packed with cocaine behind a seat in the rear of the plane.
Authorities said the cocaine was worth $1 million.
After returning from the bathroom, Vincent Salzano told the agents that “no one else on the plane knew anything about it,” the criminal complaint states. “It’s all mine,” the elder Salzano told agents searching the aircraft, according to the criminal complaint.