Solvang man accused of flying marijuana through Obama’s airspace
A man who was arrested after marijuana was found on a small plane he had been piloting through a no-fly zone set up during President Obama’s visit to Southern California last Thursday has been identified as Brian J. Choppin, 43, of Solvang.
Long Beach police said Wednesday that Choppin was booked on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale and transportation of the drug, both felonies. He has been released on bail.
Police said they are preparing a criminal case to submit to the Los Angeles County district attorney before the end of next week. Choppin could face up to three years in prison on the possession allegation and up to four years on the transportation count.
Authorities said Choppin, who was flying a four-seat Cessna, violated restricted airspace during the president's visit. He was forced to land the single-engine plane at Long Beach Airport after being intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-16 jet fighters.
Law enforcement officials met the aircraft and found what they described as a large amount of marijuana on board. They declined to disclose the exact amount because of their ongoing criminal investigation.
Federal officials determined that Choppin’s flight did not present a threat to the president and turned him over to Long Beach authorities.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, pilots who use an airplane to transport illegal drugs can face the permanent revocation of their licenses.
-- Dan Weikel
Photo: Marine 1 with President Barack Obama aboard, along with several support helicopters, flies over Long Beach on Feb. 16. Credit: Saul Loeb/ AFP/Getty Images