STOW: A D.A.R.E. police officer played a key role in the arrest of three men and the seizure of 30 kilos of cocaine at the Kent State University Airport in Stow Friday night.
The street value of the 66 pounds of cocaine could be more than $2 million, police said.
Authorities had been alerted that a plane carrying cocaine was headed for the airport.
Stow Police Chief Louis A. Dirker Jr. said at a news conference Monday that Patrolman Jim Barker, who is the city's Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, stopped Robert W. Hawes, who was waiting at the airport in his 2007 Toyota Tundra.
Hawes, 35, of Cleveland, told Barker he was waiting to pick up two people coming in on the plane, Dirker said.
Because he was detained by Barker, Hawes was not able to alert the men on the incoming flight not to land in Stow, Dirker said.
''He helped make a big drug bust,'' the chief said of Barker.
The cocaine seizure was described in detail at the news conference at the Stow Police Department, and Dirker released a video showing the arrest of two men and the search of their Cessna 182 by a Kent police officer and police dog after the plane landed.
Arrested in addition to Hawes were Tommy A. Gonzales, 27, of Riverside, Calif., and Malcolm A. Sales, 45, of Westminster, Calif., the pilot of the plane.
All were charged with felony possession of drugs and taken to the Summit County Jail Friday night. They were arraigned before Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Judge Lisa L. Coates Monday afternoon, and bond for each was set at $1 million cash.
John Scavelli Jr., Stow's assistant law director, told Coates that each of the men was being classified as a ''major drug offender'' because of the amount of drugs involved.
Scavelli said he understood that federal charges could be filed today.
John Ferster, resident agent in charge of the Cleveland office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said that in the four years he has been working in Northeast Ohio, this is one of the largest drug busts he has seen.
He said the size of the shipment indicates that ''we've uncovered a source of supply and an organization that at this time we didn't know about before.''
''This amount of cocaine most likely wasn't coming to one individual,'' Ferster said. ''There would be a group of people who would be attempting to distribute it.''
Ferster said that in the short term, removing so much cocaine from the street could have an impact, but ''I'm sure in the long run, they'll get another source and they'll be back at it, unless we are fortunate enough to identify
the organization and take everyone out.''
Along with Stow police and the DEA, other agencies involved were the Kent State University and Kent police departments, the State Highway Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
''This is an excellent example of several agencies working together,'' Dirker said.
He described the drug seizure as ''a big deal.''
''This isn't a dime bag of marijuana,'' he said. ''This is a pretty big bust.''
Dirker said Stow police received a call from the Kent State University Police Department on Friday saying it had been contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Los Angeles about a shipment of cocaine being flown to Stow from California.
After the plane landed, a Kent police dog searched the craft, Dirker said; Kent canine officer Marty Gilliland reported that the dog reacted as if there were drugs on board.
Gilliland ''said the plane was either full of T-bone steaks or cocaine because the dog went after'' what was on board, Dirker said.
The flight record showed that the Kent State University Airport was the destination of the plane, which also made stops in Denver and Indiana, he said.
Inside the community room at the Stow Safety Building Monday, the 30 1-kilo wrapped packages were put on display. (A kilo is 2.2 pounds.)
Cocaine is worth $25,000 a kilo, for a total of $750,000, at its basic market value, Dirker said, but the street value could be two to three times that — up to $2.25 million.
Ferster said that if cocaine is 100 percent pure, sellers ''double or triple their money.''
The packages were found in a luggage compartment behind the pilot, Dirker said. Each package was marked ''Chuko,'' but Dirker and Ferster said they did not know what the marking meant.
Dirker and Ferster said authorities will begin forfeiture proceedings on the plane and Toyota Tundra.
Dirker described the arrest as a ''once-in-a-lifetime experience'' for an officer.
''I've been in police work 33 years and I've never seen anything like this,'' he said.
Video of Drug Bust(If the video below does not work use the link to the video in the right rail of this page)
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.