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Contract ATC controller arrested w 850 LBS Marijuana

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Marriott Platinum Member
Dec 2, 2003

Cops intercept big pot shipment at San Marcos airport

Submitted by Sean Kimmons on Friday, 23 April 2010No Comment


A hefty marijuana delivery of 850 pounds stuffed into 16 large duffle bags was intercepted by police on April 21 at the San Marcos Airport, police say.

The Hays County Narcotics Task Force, staffed with officers from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and San Marcos Police Department, conducted a drug interdiction operation at the San Marcos Airport. Bundles believed to be illegal drugs were observed being removed from an aircraft into a waiting 2005 Chevy Suburban, police say.

Police then followed the vehicle into the city limits of San Marcos, where deputies from the sheriff’s office made a traffic stop on Interstate 35 northbound at River Ridge Parkway, police say.


Deputies located the marijuana stash in the rear of the vehicle and arrested the driver, Melvin Alexander Duran, 33, of Austin, and his juvenile passenger, police say.

Duran has been charged with possession of marijuana, over 50 but under 2,000 pounds, a second degree felony. His bond has been set at $60,000 and he remains in custody. The juvenile was taken into custody and placed in juvenile detention, police say.

The pilot of the aircraft, Joe Frank Corder, 64, of Wimberley, has been charged with delivery of marijuana, a first degree felony. His bond has been set at $80,000 and he also remains in custody, police say.


850 pounds of pot seized near San Marcos airport

New Braunfels air traffic controller faces charges in one of county's biggest marijuana busts.

Published: 10:19 p.m. Friday, April 23, 2010
A New Braunfels air traffic controller is at the center of one of the largest drug seizures in Hays County, law enforcement officials said Friday.
Joe Frank Corder Jr., 64 , who is also a pilot, was arrested after 850 pounds of marijuana were recovered after a drug pickup from a plane that Corder flew into the San Marcos Municipal Airport on Wednesday evening , a law enforcement official said.

The bust happened after members of the Hays County Narcotics Task Force initiated an airport interdiction there.
"This is one of the bigger seizures ever made in Hays County," Hays County sheriff's office spokesman Leroy Opiela said.
The seizure marks the second large marijuana bust in Central Texas this month. Two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety recovered 300 pounds of marijuana after a seizure at a North Austin apartment.
Members of the task force, which includes officers from the Hays County sheriff's office and the San Marcos Police Department, saw "bundles" being loaded from the plane piloted by Corder into a waiting vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban , driven away by Melvin Alexander Duran, 33 , of Austin, Opiela said.
The arrests came as a surprise to at least one employee at the New Braunfels Municipal Airport .
"I guess I'm just shocked," said Liz Castillo, a secretary at the airport who knew of Corder but said she didn't know him personally.
Castillo said Corder was employed by a contractor, RVA Robinson Aviation Inc., which staffs the crew of four full-time air traffic controllers, including Corder, at the airport. Castillo said Corder transferred to the New Braunfels airport about two months ago.
Top executives for RVA, founded in Falls Church, Va. , could not be reached late Friday.
Corder, of Wimberley, previously lived in Victoria and Laredo, according to public records. He was once employed with the McAllen-Miller International Airport , the records say.
"It's a bad mark against general aviation when things like this happen, but people will behave desperately for money," said Jay Carpenter, a board director for the Texas Aviation Association, who did not know Corder personally or specifics of the case. "I've never heard of a traffic controller in trouble with the law."
Corder has run into troubles in the past, according to public records. In 2001, he faced federal tax liens at an address in the North Texas city of Kemp through the Kaufman County clerk. In 1991, Corder faced a criminal charge of theft by appropriation, according to public records.
Duran also had troubles earlier. In 2005, he faced a third-degree felony of possession of marijuana in Falfurrias, southwest of Corpus Christi, according to public records. He has most recently lived in Austin, records say.
Joined by deputies from the sheriff's office, law enforcement officials conducted a traffic stop on the Suburban being driven by Duran sometime close to 11 p.m. Wednesday about five miles away at northbound Interstate 35 and River Ridge Parkway, Opiela said.
An investigation of the scene uncovered 16 large duffle bags filled with the 850 pounds of marijuana in the rear of the vehicle, Opiela said. A juvenile who was in the vehicle was taken into custody along with Corder and Duran, Opiela said.
Corder faces delivery of marijuana charges, a first-degree felony, Opiela said, while Duran faces a possession of marijuana charge, a second-degree felony.
Corder is being held with bail set at $80,000, while Duran is being held on bail of $60,000, Opiela said.
The juvenile, whose name and age have not been released, was placed in juvenile detention, Opiela said.
Another major bust about two years ago netted 1,000 pounds of drugs, Opiela said. Since Opiela began working with the Hays County sheriff's office 12 years ago, this would be the second-largest seizure, he said.
Opiela couldn't elaborate Friday on how law enforcement officials were alerted to the plane. And a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said he couldn't immediately comment on the investigation.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Corder owns one plane: a turbo-charged, single-engine Piper Arrow aircraft . The plane has had no flight plans filed since November, according to flight tracking website Flightaware.com.
Carpenter, the aviation expert, said that if the plane flew out of San Marcos and back Wednesday evening, a cloudy night, without a flight plan, it probably would have drawn attention.
"When weather comes into it, you almost always have to file a flight plan," Carpenter said. If someone "saw you fly into the clouds and no flight plan, that would be a huge red flag."
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