Drones Are Now Doing Drug Dealers’ Dirty Work
Last year, reports of drug dealers using drones to deposit goods at a prison guard hit headlines. Prison guards at The Handlon Correctional Facility in rural Ionia, Michigan, heard an odd sound early one morning and came out to the yard to investigate. They saw a drone come down and drop a package of contraband near one of the housing units. Inside the package, they found cell phones, cigarettes, marijuana and razor blades. As staff were investigating, the drone flew off and came back, dropping a second package in the same location, giving officers plenty of time to follow it and make arrests.
There have been more recent reports of criminals employing drones for smuggling drugs across the border. Two men recently pled guilty in U.S. federal court to smuggling 28 pounds of heroin across the border using a drone. However, there hadn’t been any reports of criminals using the devices to deposit drugs and other goods to civilians – until now.
A California couple was arrested on December 21 after they allegedly used a drone to deliver drugs to customers down the street while a 9-year-old girl lived in their drug-littered home.
The whole investigation began after a neighbor reported seeing drugs being dropped to customers from a drone and followed its path back to the couple’s house. When they began to investigate, officers observed the very same drone drop into a nearby church parking lot a package of narcotics drug dealers had prepared. After receiving their delivery, the customers drove past the couple’s home and tossed cash onto the front lawn. That was all police needed to see.
“It’s literally a cat-and-mouse game,” said officer Dylan Railsback. “It’s a new way of chasing the mouse.”
Police served a search warrant to Benjamin Paul Baldassarre, 39, and Ashley Lauren Carroll, 31. Inside their home, they discovered “used and uncapped hypodermic syringes scattered throughout a bedroom” and “unpacked powders believed to be fentanyl.” Officers reported, “Detectives also located methamphetamine and suspected LSD-laced candies, as well as the drone used for the delivery of the illegal narcotics.”‘
Baldassarre’s 9-year-old daughter was found in a bedroom with a vape pen containing marijuana. The girl was placed with Riverside County Child Protective Services agents and later released to her biological mother. The drug dealers were taken into custody without incident.
“Even though this was a new and creative technique for a drug dealer to deliver his product to a customer, it was kind of just good old-fashioned police work, going out to the neighborhood, doing surveillance and developing a probable cause for a search warrant,” Railsback said of how the arrests were made.
The couple was ultimately charged with possession of controlled substances for sale, child endangerment, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Carroll pleaded not guilty to all charges and was held on $100,000 bail. Baldassarre, who had been previously convicted of driving under the influence of drugs and being under the influence of a controlled substance, was expected to be arraigned shortly after. Baldassarre and Carroll had also been charged in a previous unresolved drug-related case.