A California pilot, his passenger and their alleged high-flying load of marijuana are in Metro police custody after witnesses reported suspicious activity at John C. Tune airport Wednesday.
Narcotics detectives arrested Eric Bausch, 40, of Petaluma, Calif., and Robbie Valdespino, 33, of San Francisco, around midday Thursday after they returned to the airport. Detectives also seized $20,000 in cash along with more than 17 pounds of “high-grade hydroponic” marijuana with an approximate street value of $7,000, police said.
Wednesday evening witnesses at the small airport in western Davidson County reported seeing Bausch and Valdespino unloading suspicious-looking duffle bags with their luggage from their single-engine Cessna plane shortly after the plane landed around 7 p.m.
Police responded to the airport, but the two men had already left in a rental car. After a police drug dog alerted an officer to the scent of drugs around the plane, officers set out to look for the rental car.
Detectives found the car at 2 a.m. Thursday at a local strip club and later followed the men to their hotel on Broadway. Police believe the two may have already sold of much of the marijuana they allegedly brought with them.
Bausch and Valdespino are charged with possession of marijuana for resale, and are being held in lieu of $350,000 bond each.
Police believe Bausch flew the aircraft from Southern California to Nashville and was headed to the New Orleans area. The plane landed in Nashville on March 8 with another suspected load of marijuana, police said.
Metro’s Specialized Investigations Division Narcotics Unit, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force are continuing to investigate.
The police department is seeking the forfeiture of the Cessna airplane because it was allegedly used to traffic illegal drugs.