Bizjets Implicated In Drug-Smuggling Scheme

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A private jet charter company flying out of California's Van Nuys Airport allegedly used the planes to transport illegal drugs and promoted its service as friendly to drug traffickers, authorities said last week. Eight suspects, including a co-owner of the company, SmoothAir Aviation, were arrested after a yearlong investigation focusing on the company's ties to drug traffickers in Mexico. Clarence Adolphus, 46, of SmoothAir, allegedly assured drug traffickers his flights were not subject to searches and inspections required at major airports, according to the U.S. attorney for California's Central District. Last November, government agents seized 20,000 tablets of the drug ecstasy and 345 pounds of marijuana from a SmoothAir jet leaving for Atlanta. Investigators then tapped Adolphus' cellular telephones, as well as phones used by some of his clients who are suspected of being high-ranking members of a large drug-trafficking organization based in Guadalajara. The defendants are charged with multiple conspiracies to distribute controlled substances, money laundering and structuring cash transactions. Two employees of SmoothAir were among those charged, and one suspect remains a fugitive.