Only Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant was at Peachtree DeKalb Airport as the federal agents processed the plane for evidence.
Diamant learned the seizure is just the latest in a growing list of local cases.
“For the most part, people don’t even understand. They don’t know what’s happening in Atlanta, Georgia,” Dept. of Homeland Security Special Agent Thor Whitmore said. “We’re looking at it as kind of a turn back to the 1980s.”
Investigators said the plane belongs to a Nigerian national charged in a multimillion-dollar international fraud scheme.
Diamant watched on Tuesday as agents collected evidence from the plane and a K-9 team swept the plane for drugs and other contraband.
New figures we received from the Department of Homeland Security show in 2019, the Atlanta field office spun up more than 1,100 cases and made 779 arrests. So far, it has led to 254 indictments and 241 convictions.
While seizing a jet is rare, this year, local agents seized more than five tons of drugs, 200 guns and more than $4.3 million in cash.
“This is all day, every day. I mean, this is the fruits of our labor, and this is the successes of a great team effort by our state, local and federal partners coming together to hit the bad guys where it hurts, in their pocket,” HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer said.
Agents won’t say specifically how they connected the plane to the man now facing fraud charges.
“When we see a certain type of aircraft get sold, it raises our suspicions,” Whitmore said.
As federal agents went through the plane, the accused was in court Tuesday for an initial appearance.
A removal hearing will also be held to send him back to New York, where the charges he faces were originally filed.