80 lbs of Marijuana are displayed on the hood of a State Trooper vehicle.
Wyoming Highway Patrol

A cross-country airplane trip from northern California to Illinois to Wyoming and maybe elsewhere ended with the arrest of the pilot on racketeering and drug charges in Evanston in December.

The federal grand jury on Jan. 12 indicted Bruce Michael Latorre on one count of  interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise and one count of conspiracy to distribute more than 50 kilograms, or 110 pounds, of marijuana.

The indictment also stated Latorre was found with $519,935, "which represented the proceeds of the said business enterprise involving the distribution of controlled substances."

If convicted on both counts, he could face up to 25 years of imprisonment.

Latorre, who lives in northern California, surrendered to authorities and made his initial appearance before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Jan. 17. He was arraigned, pleaded not guilty and released on bond.

The indictment is sketchy on details about the case. Most of the background is found in documents filed by the defense.

On Dec. 9, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation detained Latorre at the Evanston airport, according to a motion to compel discovery by his attorney Thomas Fleener.

The detention led to a search of his airplane based on a request from Homeland Security Investigations, which had received information from the Illinois State Police's air operations unit that had been tracking the plane beginning Dec. 5. The unit observed the plane "make a suspicious trip," Fleener wrote. The nature of the "suspicious trip" is not identified.

The federal government, Fleener wrote, probably will argue that the law enforcement agencies had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify detaining Latorre and searching his plane.

But they should not have done this, he wrote. "The Defendant alleges that there was no legal basis for the detention and questioning and all evidence in this case must be suppressed as a violation of the Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights."

Fleener had asked the federal government for information from law enforcement, aviation and other authorities, but the government denied that request.

On Tuesday, Fleener filed the motion asking the court to compel the release of that information he believes will show there was no lawful reason to detain Latorre.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ordered the government to respond to Fleener's request.

No trial date has been set.

But last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Szott and Fleener wrote a trial is unlikely and the case will be resolved either through a guilty plea "or dismissal as the result of essential evidence being suppressed."

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