A DeKalb County man has admitted he tried to use a drone to drop marijuana into a prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Georgia said Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler said Eric Lee Brown, 35, of Lithonia pleaded guilty to one count. But the count is a mouthful — operating an aircraft eligible for registration knowing that the aircraft is not registered to facilitate a controlled substance offense.
Brown’s conviction is believed to be the first under the drone registration law, according to Peeler’s office.
On March 29, 2018, Brown attempted to use a drone to drop a large bag of marijuana into Autry State Prison in Pelham, located about 40 miles south of Albany.
Mitchell County deputies were called to the prison on a report of a vehicle impeding traffic. Deputies saw the drone and smelled marijuana, according to investigators, and found Brown inside the vehicle. Brown was found with 294 grams of marijuana in plastic bags and was arrested.
Brown did not register the drone and did not have the certificate required to legally fly it, Peeler’s office said. He had purchased the drone the previous week at a Henry County Best Buy store, his plea deal states.
“Working with state, local and federal authorities, our office will aggressively prosecute those who choose to smuggle cellphones, drugs or any other contraband into our state prisons,” Peeler said in an emailed press release. “The use of drones is regulated by federal criminal statutes, and our office will not hesitate to use those statutes in the fight against prison contraband.”
Brown’s sentencing date was not announced. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000.