$250K marijuana bust at Sarasota airport - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

$250K marijuana bust at Sarasota airport

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Manatee county deputies found a huge stash of drugs inside suitcases at a Sarasota airport.

Two men stuffed 65 pounds of marijuana into those suitcases and flew from California to Sarasota.

And deputies were waiting in the terminal when they arrived.

Manatee county deputies got a tip of an illegal operation going on in the skies.

They learned that a Bradenton man, 25-year-old Brett Mattson, had gone to California and met up with 35-year-old Shirden Coe.

On Saturday, the men flew a Delta flight into Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, each with two checked bags.

Before the luggage hit the turnstile, K9 drug sniffing dogs identified that the bags were contained drugs and the two men were confronted in the baggage claim.

What deputies found inside those four suitcases was pretty shocking. Tucked among clothes was around 65 pounds of marijuana, a grand total of about a quarter million dollars.

Manatee County Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said, "When you're dealing with amounts of marijuana, this is substantial."

Bristow says the men were crafty.

"They basically cut out the inside of books, and put the marijuana inside the books, put the marijuana in the middle of the suitcase and walked on through,” said Bristow. “Basically your bag limit is 50 pounds and you go over that limit, and if you go over that, you might draw attention. But they were all under the 50 pounds.”

The sheriff's office collaborated with the airport police in this operation.

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport VP/CFO Martin Lang said, "This is the biggest, the only one of any size that I can remember."

But there are a lot of unanswered questions in this whole operation. Officials could not comment on how the drugs were even allowed onto an airplane. Officials also could not say whether law enforcement in California was involved.

Bristow said, "This is an ongoing investigation so there's a lot of things we're not gonna talk about. We've probably talked about more than we should. We just can’t get into much about the investigation."

But regardless of how the men accomplished their task, they failed at their goal, and they were each charged with a felony.

We reached out to the Transportation Security Administration, but they have not responded at this time.

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