A 55-year-old Colorado man admitted Wednesday in federal court that he planned to distribute the nearly 72 pounds of cocaine found last fall aboard his private airplane at Baton Rouge Metro Airport.
Vincenzo “Vincent” Salzano, 55, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and will be sentenced Oct. 8 by U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick.
Salzano, who has a previous conviction for cocaine distribution, faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.
Court documents indicate the plane’s suspicious flight plan alerted federal agents and prompted the search of the plane.
Salzano’s twin-engine Beechcraft 58P flew from Denver to Atlanta on Oct. 7, then the next day from Atlanta to McAllen, Texas, along the United States-Mexico border, stopping for fuel in New Orleans. After a brief stay in McAllen, the plane was headed back to Atlanta when it stopped in Baton Rouge.
When the plane landed at Metro Airport, it was met by agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Louisiana State Police.
Agents obtained consent to search the plane for illegal narcotics, and found among the luggage two gym bags containing about 30 packaged bundles of cocaine weighing roughly 33 kilograms, according to a factual basis read by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Stevens in Dick’s courtroom Wednesday.
“After agents found the first of the two bags that held the cocaine, the defendant immediately claimed responsibility for the cocaine, telling agents that it was ‘all his,’ or words to that effect,” the factual basis states. “In a subsequent interview, the defendant again stated that the cocaine was his and told agents that no one else on the plane knew anything about the drugs.”
Agents found Salzano’s wallet in the second of the two bags that held the cocaine.
Salzano, of Aurora, told agents he had picked up the cocaine in McAllen, reboarded the plane and was in the process of transporting the drugs to Atlanta at the time of his stop in Baton Rouge, the factual basis says.
Salzano’s son — Armando Salzano, 32, of Littleton, Colorado — pleaded guilty in January to drug charges in the case and is scheduled to be sentenced July 30. The younger Salzano, who was a passenger on the plane, faces up to five years in prison.
Authorities said the cocaine was worth $1 million.