Two defendants were convicted today after a 12 day jury trial for their roles in an international drug trafficking conspiracy that aimed to transport more than 2,400 kilograms of cocaine aboard U.S. registered aircraft, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Dwight Knowles, a Bahamian national also known as “Arizona,” and Oral George Thompson, a Jamaican national also known as “Chad,” were convicted of conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, five kilograms or more of cocaine on board a U.S. registered aircraft. Thompson is set to be sentenced on June 21, 2017, and Knowles is set to be sentenced on June 23, 2017. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia presided over the trial and will impose sentence.
According to the evidence introduced at trial, Knowles and Thompson sought to acquire U.S. registered aircraft to transport large quantities of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela. Thompson moved to Colombia by 1997 and Knowles followed by 2010. From their base in Colombia, the defendants were better able to connect with sources of cocaine who were seeking aircraft, mostly from the United States, to transport their cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela to Central America and the Caribbean, for eventual distribution elsewhere.
The evidence introduced at trial also revealed that from 2011 through May 2012, Knowles and Thompson sought to acquire a U.S. registered aircraft to transport at least three loads of cocaine from Venezuela to Honduras. The evidence showed that a total of at least 2,400 kilograms of cocaine could have been transported in the three loads. The plan was to acquire a U.S. registered Beechcraft 1900 aircraft in The Bahamas, fly the plane to Haiti to refuel and pick up a second pilot, fly to Venezuela where the cocaine would be loaded on the plane, and then fly to Honduras to deliver the cocaine. In May 2012, Knowles and Thompson arranged for a Bahamian pilot to fly the Beechcraft 1900 aircraft to Haiti; however, upon arriving in Haiti, the pilot and two other men on the plane were arrested and the plane was confiscated by Haitian authorities.
The DEA’s Orlando (Florida) office, Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia Country Offices, and Special Operations Division investigated the case. The government of Colombia provided invaluable assistance through the investigation of this case, with specific assistance provided by the Colombian National Police. Invaluable assistance was also provided by The Royal Bahamas Police Force, Drug Enforcement Unit; the Ministry of Traffic, Transportation and Urban Planning, Curacao Civil Aviation Authority; and, the National Police of Haiti, Anti-Drug Traffic Office. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also played a pivotal role in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Adrian Rosales, Charles Miracle and Erin Cox of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS), with significant assistance provided by the NDDS Judicial Attachés in Bogotá, Colombia; the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; and the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Colombia (Fiscalía).