Pilot involved in marijuana trafficking ring sentenced to 30 months in federal prison

 

Date: February 25, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Donald Burns of Milford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, for his role in a large-scale marijuana trafficking conspiracy.

According to court documents and the evidence presented during a trial of one of Burns' codefendants, in 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration began investigating a Piper single-engine aircraft, owned by Burns, that was making regular flights between Stratford, Connecticut, and northern California via the southwest United States. On June 28, 2017, Burns flew the aircraft from northern California to Lubbock, Texas. The next day, Burns flew the aircraft from Texas to Arkansas, and then to West Virginia and Connecticut, where he landed in the evening at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford. After it landed, a law enforcement search of the plane revealed approximately 400 pounds of marijuana in vacuum-sealed packages, and Burns was arrested. Investigators determined that the marijuana was intended for Robert Capelli, Scott Bodnar, Terrell Givens and others to distribute in Connecticut.

The investigation revealed that, for more than two years, Capelli and his associates earned millions of dollars by trafficking nearly two tons of marijuana from California to Connecticut.  Members of the conspiracy also laundered more than $6 million to purchase marijuana in California, maintain properties for distribution in Connecticut, pay Burns to transport the marijuana, and for other expenses related to the conspiracy.

On May 6, 2019, Burns, of Milford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. He also agreed to forfeit the Piper aircraft.

Burns, who is released on bond, is required to report to prison on May 26.

On July 25, 2019, a jury found Capelli, of Milford, guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. He was found not guilty of one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and one count of money laundering. On December 3, 2019, he was sentenced to 95 months of imprisonment.

As part of this case, Capelli also has forfeited $55,000.

On May 2, 2019, Bodnar, of Ansonia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. On September 4, 2019, he was sentenced to 55 months of imprisonment and ordered to forfeit his 2012 Toyota Camry.

On May 3, 2019, Givens, of Beacon Falls, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. On September 11, 2019, he was sentenced to 55 months of imprisonment and ordered to forfeit his 2009 Jaguar XF and jewelry valued at approximately $8,000.

This matter was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration's New Haven Task Force, the Federal Aviation Administration's Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP), the Customs and Border Protection's Air and Marine Operations Center, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Stratford, Derby and West Haven Police Departments, and the Second Judicial Drug Task Force in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Kale and Marc Silverman.