A wiretap investigation which examined the use of private jets based at Van Nuys
Airport to transport illegal drugs resulted today in the arrest of eight
defendants. One defendant is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.
The arrests are the result of Operation Jamaican Express West, which focused on the
activities of SmoothAir Aviation, a charter company that allegedly facilitated the
shipment of narcotics.
The defendants in this case are charged in a criminal complaint with multiple
conspiracies to distribute controlled substances, money laundering and structuring
cash transactions. The criminal complaint, which was filed on March 26, charges the
* Clarence Rudolph Adolphus, 46, of Moorpark, who is co-owner of SmoothAir Aviation;
* Mauricio Torres, 31, of Compton;
* Daniel Franco-Acuna, 35, of Norwalk;
* Juan Franco, 33, of Maywood;
* Lester Aubrey Bull, 40, of Diamond Bar, who is the owner of World Class Coachworks
(also known as World Coachworks or World Color World) in the Hyde Park section of
* Pablo Rodolfo Miranda, 38, of Compton;
* Ramon Castillo Martinez, 32, of the Echo Park section of Los Angeles;
* Marybeth Emberland, 45, of Woodland Hills;
* Blossom Marie Thorndike, 26, of Moorpark.
* Bull is the fugitive. The eight defendants in custody are expected to make their
initial court appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los
* Operation Jamaican Express West began in late 2002, following the seizures of 560
pounds of marijuana (with a wholesale value of up to $1.1 million) and $854,000 in
cash from two separate private jet flights. Federal agents began to investigate
SmoothAir Aviation, which arranged the flights out of Van Nuys Airport. The
affidavit in support of the criminal complaint reveals that Adolphus and Bull had
been linked to large cocaine shipments by private jet aircraft in 2001.
* In June 2003, according to the affidavit, investigators began using wiretaps on
Adolphus’ cellular telephones, as well as phones used by his clients, including
Torres and Franco, both of whom are suspected of being high-ranking members of a
large drug trafficking organization that has ties to narcotics traffickers in
* The complaint alleges that Adolphus offered private jet travel from Los Angeles
to any city and that he promoted the service by claiming that his flights were not
subject to searches and inspections required on commercial passenger flights at
major airports. Therefore, he assured traffickers, they could fly their illegal
cargo without risk of interference by the police. Information obtained during the
investigation showed that Torres and others used Adolphus’ services to move drug
loads without detection. In fact, Torres told Adolphus in 2003 that his confederates
in Guadalajara wanted the exclusive use of Adolphus’ private jet for six months to
one year. However, on November 11, 2003, agents seized a large shipment of drugs
that was supposed to be transported by a private jet arranged by Adolphus. The
shipment, which belonged to Torres, included more than 20,000 tablets of the club
drug ecstasy and more than 345 pounds of marijuana and was removed from a jet
leaving for Atlanta.
* The complaint alleges that Juan Franco and Miranda worked for Torres and Daniel
Franco. Martinez is accused of helping transport the drugs seized on November 11,
2003. Emberland and Thorndike are employees at SmoothAir Aviation who assisted
Adolphus in depositing large amounts of cash that he received from traffickers.
* Today’s arrests were made by special agents with the Drug Enforcement
Administration, IRS-Criminal Investigation and investigators with the Los Angeles
Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT). The
investigation was conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task
Force (OCDETF) program.