Customs Agents Arrest Pilots of Learjet Loaded with Weapons

 - August 20, 2020, 3:35 PM
U.S. government authorities had tracked suspicious flight activity of this Learjet 55 before the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol raided the aircraft and found it loaded with nearly 90 weapons, 63,000 rounds of ammunition, and more than $20,000 in U.S. currency. (Photo: U.S. CBP)

U.S. Customs agents—alerted about a suspicious business jet at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida—boarded a Venezuelan-registered Bombardier Learjet 55 (YV3441) on August 15 and found it loaded with nearly 90 weapons, 63,000 rounds of ammunition, and more than $20,000 in U.S. currency.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized 18 assault/bolt action rifles with optics, six shotguns, 58 semiautomatic pistols, and nearly $2,700 in endorsed checks, in addition to the cash. Two Venezuelan national pilots were arrested and charged with smuggling cash and goods from the U.S., and illegally possessing firearms as aliens.

The CBP raid occurred shortly before the aircraft's planned departure. According to agents, the crew of the twinjet listed their destination as the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but the aircraft's ultimate destination was believed to be Venezuela.

Authorities became suspicious of the aircraft after tracking its flight history over the last several months and noting the filing of a different tail number on flight plans. The incident remains under investigation.