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CHARTER-JET OFFICIAL DENIES GUILT.

Byline: Andrea Cavanaugh Staff Writer

The co-owner of a charter jet company accused of running a drug-smuggling ring out of Van Nuys Airport pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Clarence Adolphus, 46, of Moorpark appeared in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, along with seven others named in the indictment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Villeza said.

According to a criminal complaint, Adolphus, the co-owner of SmoothAir Aviation, told drug traffickers that they should use his service because unlike commercial passenger planes, his jets were not subject to security searches.

Adolphus' attorney did not return a phone call for comment.

Adolphus pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to distribute drugs, along with Mauricio Torres, 31, of Compton; Daniel Franco-Acuna, 35, of Norwalk; Juan Franco, 33, of Maywood; and Pablo Rodolfo Miranda, 38, of Compton, Villeza said.

Ramon Castillo Martinez, 32, of Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Marybeth Emberland, 45, of Woodland Hills and Blossom Marie Thorndike, 26, of Moorpark each pleaded not guilty to charges of structuring cash transactions, Villeza said.

Emberland is the wife of SmoothAir President Craig Emberland, who was not named in the indictment.

A ninth person named in the indictment, Lester Aubrey Bull, 40, of Diamond Bar, remains a fugitive, Villeza said.

Adolphus and seven others were arrested on April 1 after a nearly two- year investigation.

Authorities said Adolphus used his jets to import cocaine, marijuana and other drugs for a drug ring based in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Andrea Cavanaugh, (805) 583-7602

andrea.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 20, 2004
Words:272
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