A 64-year-old pilot and drug dealer was charged in CT

A Florida pilot has been sentenced to seven years in prison – which he had already served – and probation for his involvement in two separate cocaine trafficking conspiracies, federal authorities said.

Rupert De Las Casas, 64, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to approximately 85 months in prison, time already served, plus three years of probation, according to federal authorities.

Authorities, citing court documents and court testimony, said De Las Casas and others plotted in 2016 to transport about 1,700 kilograms of cocaine from South America to the United States on a private jet. But the plane crashed in Venezuela and De Las Casas, Ronier Sanchez Alonso and another co-conspirator “evaded capture by Venezuelan authorities and the cocaine was diverted to Colombia,” authorities said.

A grand jury in Bridgeport indicted De Las Casas, Sanchez and others in 2016 on charges of “conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute aboard a U.S.-registered aircraft,” authorities said. De Las Casas was arrested on April 15, 2017, pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 23, 2019, and has been in custody since then, authorities said.

Authorities said De Las Casas was also charged in the Central District of California for his “participation in a separate conspiracy to traffic cocaine.” The case was transferred to the District of Connecticut and he pleaded guilty in 2024 to conspiracy to distribute cocaine for the purpose of illegal importation, authorities said.

Sanchez, a native of Mexico, was arrested in Paraguay in 2021, then extradited to the United States, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2023, authorities said.

Co-conspirator Arrinson De La Cruz, who lived in Connecticut and “worked at an airport in the Dominican Republic and helped coordinate the smooth flight of the aircraft through the airport, was separately charged for his role in this plot and other drug trafficking activities,” authorities said. De La Cruz, of the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019, authorities said.

The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration New Haven Task Force, with members of the DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Connecticut State Police, and the police departments of New Haven, Waterbury, East Haven, Branford, West Haven, Ansonia, Meriden, Naugatuck, and Shelton. The DEA Paraguay Country Office, Interpol, and the Paraguayan National Police assisted in the investigation.

Anna Harden

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