Passenger who flew on plane smuggling cocaine sentenced
The passenger in a Canadian plane loaded with 290 pounds of cocaine that was forced to land at Ohio University’s airport in southern Ohio was sentenced Thursday to 63 months in federal prison.
David Ayotte, 46, must serve five years on supervised release after prison, during which he could be deported to his native Canada. He cannot return to the United States without the permission of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hunter did not oppose the sentence.
Ayotte was in the twinengine plane with pilot Sylvain Desjardins, 48, who is also Canadian, when it made an emergency landing March 29 at Ohio University’s Gordon K. Bush Airport after developing engine trouble. Authorities said the 132 bundles of cocaine had been stowed on one side of the aircraft, causing an engine to work harder and overheat trying to keep the plane level.
The two men, who are from Mirabel, a suburb of Montreal, pleaded guilty earlier this year to possession with the intent to distribute the cocaine. Desjardins also agreed to forfeit the plane, a 1969 twinengine Piper Navajo, to the U.S. government.
Desjardins is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 27. Prosecutors are seeking 96 months in prison for him.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection tracked the aircraft after it left the Bahamas and became suspicious when it diverted to the OU airport. The plane was destined for Ontario, Canada, officials said. The plane was met at the airport by Athens County deputies, university police officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Speaking through a French interpreter, Ayotte told Marbley that he was sorry for what he did, especially for the effect it has had on his wife and teenage son.
Defense attorney Diane Menashe said Ayotte’s family has been in tough financial straits since his arrest. Marbley agreed to recommend that Ayotte be held in the U.S. prison closest to the border with Quebec so his family could visit him.