Police: Tons of pot moved through Jacksonville International Airport
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every day thousands of people make their way through Jacksonville International Airport. Many of them check luggage, never knowing what may be in some of the other bags traveling on their planes.
According to federal prosecutors, some of what was in those bags was hundreds of pounds of marijuana.
Prosecutors said a Jacksonville man is at the center of a national marijuana trafficking and money laundering scheme, and now 39-year-old Sergio Arturo Ibarra has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges for his role in the scheme.
Authorities said that drug distributors used JIA and other airports to ship the pot through multiple states including California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
"You don't see that on the news every day. There are so many things that happen that are so unexpected," airplane passenger Marshall Dell said.
According to a plea agreement that Ibarra accepted, the trafficking and laundering scheme started at least as early as 2004 but Ibarra didn't join the ring until 2010.
Police said members of the ring would load suitcases or large shipping crates full of marijuana and, with the help of "airport insiders," would ship the drugs across the country. They would receive suitcases and crates full of money shipped in the same way, police said.
Authorities said text messages linked Ibarra to the case and if that wasn't enough, they said he stashed the marijuana in two local homes including a Southside condominium complex on Touchton Road and a house on Playley Green Court in East Arlington.
Norbert Lukow, who lives near the home on Playley Green, said you would never have known the home was part of a huge drug trafficking and money laundering scheme.
"We have had nothing suspicious go on here. We have not seen unusual traffic or anything else," Lukow said.
Ibarra had been wanted by authorities, but it wasn't until last November when he was caught during a routine traffic stop.
Police said the car Ibarra was riding in reeked of burnt and raw marijuana and he had 14 rounds of 9mm ammunition along with an AR-15 magazine.
They also found receipts for cash deposits in the car, one for $6,600 and another for $1,000. Police said those deposits were consistent with the money laundering that took place in this case.
According to prosecutors, Ibarra has agreed to plead guilty and is due in court next week.
News4Jax reached out to Jacksonville International Airport for a comment but was told they were unable to make a statement.
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