20 Years for Heroin, Coke Pilot in Record Drugs Seizure

An Arizona man who flew a planeload of drugs into New Jersey, leading to the biggest general aviation heroin seizure by Homeland Security Investigations, has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

Lorenzo Alvarez, 43, of Yuma, Ariz., was sentenced to 235 months in prison and five years of supervised release in Newark federal court Monday. 

On Nov. 21, 2008, Alvarez flew a private airplane containing 24 kilograms of heroin and 48 kilograms of cocaine into New Jersey's Essex County airport, according to federal prosecutors. Special agents on the ground said they saw him take three suitcases and two smaller bags from the plan, load them into a rental car, and drove off the grounds.

When he was pulled over by a local police officer in Fairfield, Alvarez provided him with written consent to search the vehicle, according to prosecutors. While waiting in the back seat of the patrol car, he tried to hide a key to the suitcases.

The suitcases were found containing the drugs. Authorities also recovered a narcotics ledger from the plane that contained handwriting matching Alvarez's.

The seized drugs were worth millions of dollars, prosecutors said.

Alvarez pleaded guilty to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine.

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