Ultralight Plane Crossed Mexico Border, Dropped 185 Pounds of Meth; Men Who Retrieved Drugs Arrested: DOJ

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A photo of a damaged off-road vehicle used to retrieve methamphetamine near the Salton Sea is seen in a photo released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California on Dec. 16, 2019.

A photo of a damaged off-road vehicle used to retrieve methamphetamine near the Salton Sea is seen in a photo released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California on Dec. 16, 2019.

Four men face federal charges after allegedly retrieving a load of methamphetamine that was dropped near the Salton Sea via an ultralight aircraft, officials said Monday.

Early Friday, Dec. 13, authorities tracked the aircraft as it entered the U.S. from Mexico near Calexico and flew into North Shore, a community on the edge of the Salton Sea, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

After the plane landed and then headed back to Mexico, a California Highway Patrol helicopter spotted two off-road vehicles leaving the area. U.S. Border Patrol agents then intercepted two of the four men, who were taken into custody without incident. The other two were eventually arrested after they fled from a marked Border Patrol vehicle and drove their vehicle into the Coachella Canal, officials said.

The men in the first vehicle were identified as Juan Carlos Iturriaga-Centeno, 33, a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally, and his brother, Leonardo Iturriaga-Centeno, 28, of North Shore.

The other two were identified as Victor Bugarin-Perez, 28, of Mecca and Juan Favela-Paredez, 25, a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally. Border Patrol agents rescued that pair from the canal after they were unable to get out of their vehicle.

The men were each charged with one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. They face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison if convicted as charged.

No further information was given about the plane involved or anyone who was on board.

Authorities recovered 26 Tupperware containers that contained a total of about 185 pounds of meth, as well as two GPS devices believed to have been attached to the drugs dropped from the aircraft.

The men are expected to appear in court on Monday.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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