Charges have been dropped against one of two men accused of flying a plane carrying marijuana and cash into the Springdale airport in November, officials said.
Karl Sperling, 35, and Damieon Foster, 36, were arrested and charged in federal court in Fayetteville with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, records show. The pair were taken into custody by the U.S. Marshal’s Office and transported to Washington County Detention Center, according to the jail website.
Charges against Foster were dropped after he asserted he was just a passenger and did not know marijuana was on the plane, officials said.
The plane left California with 133 pounds of marijuana and $1,500 in cash, and attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because of their lack of a flight plan, said Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
Federal agents tracked the flight to Springdale, where they enlisted the help of local law enforcement to detain the suspects. Authorities caught up with the suspects at a local hotel, Eldridge said.
The plane flew into Springdale Municipal Airport at about 10 p.m. on Nov. 13.
This is not the first big drug bust this year involving federal agents in Northwest Arkansas. Sixteen people were arrested in March and charged with money laundering, meth distribution and conspiracy to distribute drugs, in a Springdale bust known as Operation La Pantera Negra. Investigators seized more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine worth millions of dollars.
Police said Northwest Arkansas is considered a hub for drug traffickers because they can use local interstates to travel quickly to larger cities such as St. Louis, Tulsa and Kansas City.