Tiverton man busted in cross country marijuana caper

Officials in Pennsylvania display  300 pounds of marijuana from Cessna 207A (rear). Officials in Pennsylvania display 300 pounds of marijuana from Cessna 207A (rear).

Officials in Pennsylvania display  300 pounds of marijuana from Cessna 207A (rear).

Officials in Pennsylvania display 300 pounds of marijuana from Cessna 207A (rear).

 TIVERTON — After officials tracked the upcoming cross-country deal for days, a Tiverton man was arrested Monday night in the back parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Lincoln while in the act of transferring cardboard boxes filled with marijuana from one van to another. 

According to official accounts, and other reports, at the time of the arrest, the man — Michael M. Daniels, 31, whose “last known address” was said to be Tiverton — was under close surveillance by law enforcement officials as the deal finally went down.

For several days officials had been tracking approximately 300 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $1.2 million, as it made its way by plane across country from California.

The events that unfolded Monday night in the hotel parking lot culminated a zig-zag, cross-country journey by a plane with tinted windows carrying the contraband marijuana that made every effort to avoid detection by radar and urban airports.

Those very efforts, however, may have triggered official interest in the plane, which was reportedly followed part of the way by a Black Hawk helicopter.

After Monday night’s arrest, a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Dec. 17 in the United States District Court for Rhode Island in Providence, charged Michael Daniels with conspiracy to possess — with intent to distribute — marijuana in violation of federal law.

His brother, Benjamin J. Daniels, 37, of West Bountiful Utah, was also charged with the same offense.

The plane, a Cessna 207A, carrying the marijuana left a small airport in northern California on Thursday, Dec. 12 and landed Monday night, Dec. 16 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

An article in the Ellwood City Ledger (Pennsylvania) by reporter E. Poole reports that efforts by the pilot “to literally fly below the radar,”  along with other “multiple suspicious procedures,” drew the attention of authorities to the plane as it made its way across the country.

So when the plane landed at New Castle Airport in Pennsylvania for refueling, dogs sniffed the plane, a search was conducted, and the drugs were found.

The pilot, (Ken Barton Burrows, 53, of Orem, Utah), was charged, and detained, and a criminal complaint was filed against him in Pennsylvania.

In writing about the circumstances of the pilot’s arrest and the Pennsylvania complaint and charges, Reporter Poole said, “The airplane’s windows were tinted dark, Burrows had not filed a flight plan, and he was avoiding urban areas with large airports that would have tracked him by radar from long-range towers. As Burrows small-airport-hopped across the United States, Homeland Security began tracking him and used a Black Hawk helicopter to tail the aircraft.”

After the charges were filed in Pennsylvania, Reporter Poole said, officials “then permitted the Department of Homeland Security to take the airplane to its intended destination in Rhode Island as part of an operation to capture the dealer who was purchasing the marijuana.”

The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Providence against Mr. Daniels says the amount of marijuana in the plane “is not consistent with personal use.”

The complaint details what happened after the plane left New Castle, referring to “the pilot” but never by name.

On Monday, Dec. 16, the complaint says, “the boxes containing the marijuana were transported from Pennsylvania to North Central State Airport” in Smithfield, where they arrived about 3 p.m. and were loaded (it’s not clear from the complaint by whom or how) into a white cargo van.

There followed multiple text messages and phone calls back and forth, over about a three hour period, the complaint indicates, between “the pilot” and Benjamin Daniels, who said his “buddy” (quotes in the original complaint, and presumably referring to Michael Daniels) was in the process of getting what was later confirmed as another van.

After these multiple communications, about 6 p.m., two vans ultimately arrived in the back parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott, one a white cargo van, the other a gray minivan.

The complaint says that Michael Daniels and “the pilot” began transferring the marijuana from the white cargo van to the gray minivan.

“After approximately 7 of the boxes were transferred, investigators arrived. Michael Daniels was arrested. Upon arrest he was found to be in possession of $4,694,” says the complaint.

The complaint says that the minivan was rented from Enterprise Car Rentals in Fall River about an hour after the plane landed at North Central State Airport.

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