A man who was found with $1.3 million in cash during a 2005 arrest at Gainesville's Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport was found guilty this week of federal money laundering charges.
Kevin Felts, 59, of Brazoria, Texas, was believed to be involved with a large-scale cocaine trafficking ring operating out of Mexico, according to Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney David Nahmias. A codefendant in the case, Nora Aguilar, was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Felts is due to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William C. O'Kelley in February.
Federal prosecutors said Drug Enforcement Administration agents staked out the airport on March 12, 2005, after learning that a small private plane would be arriving with more than $1 million in cash. Agents watched as Felts and Aguilar emerged from the plane and met with two unidentified men in the airport parking lot. The men handed Felts two suitcases and quickly left.
After Felts was detained, agents found $1.3 million in the suitcases, "packaged in a manner consistent with drug proceeds," officials said. Another $20,000 was found in Aguilar's purse. Felts was carrying a loaded handgun in the waistband of his pants.
The two men who handed over the suitcases were tailed by agents to a Gainesville home, where authorities found 17 kilograms, about 35 pounds, of cocaine.
Aguilar later admitted to agents that she was "part of a sophisticated drug trafficking operation that distributed narcotics in various cities in the Southeastern United States," prosecutors said. She told authorities she and Felts regularly collected drug money that was smuggled back to drug traffickers in Mexico.
"Felts, and those working with him, directly assisted with the distribution of significant quantities of cocaine throughout the southeastern United States," Nahmias said in a statement.
"As part of the conspiracy, Felts also ensured that the money generated from the sale of the drugs returned to drug traffickers operating in Mexico. We hope that the conviction of this defendant and his codefendant sends a clear message that those who launder the dirty money generated by selling drugs face federal prison."
Following a one-week trial, a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Gainesville found Felts guilty on Monday of conspiracy to launder drug money, laundering drug funds and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He was acquitted of a drug conspiracy charge.