A U.S. Air National Guard pilot and a crew member pleaded guilty Friday to using military flights to smuggle millions of dollars worth of the drug Ecstasy into the United States, federal authorities said.
Capt. Franklin Rodriguez and Master Sgt. John Fong pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to smuggling more than 200,000 Ecstasy pills in April 2005 on a flight from Germany to a National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Rodriguez, a pilot of the U.S. Air Force C-5A Galaxy cargo aircraft, and Fong, who was in charge of loading and unloading cargo, were arrested last year as part of a larger investigation into importation of Ecstasy, also called MDMA.
The men had been on an official mission to deliver training supplies to the Republic of Georgia and on their return stopped in Germany, where they went to a hotel room and loaded packages of Ecstasy into their luggage, according to court documents.
After the men landed at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York, federal agents found 28 large bags filled with Ecstasy tablets. Ecstasy sells on the street for as much as $40 a tablet, according to federal drug authorities.
Both men admitted they also transported the same drug on previous flights, the federal criminal complaint said.
As part of the plea, Rodriguez admitted having $725,000 in cash in his New York apartment, authorities said.
They face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of two counts, one for conspiracy and one for importing the drug, when they are sentenced Aug. 25. Rodriguez also agreed to forfeit $750,000 and a BMW car.