SANTA ANA, Calif. -(UPI) - The CIA and FBI are investigating a smuggling ring they say may have sent sophisticated computer equipment to Cuba in exchange for marijuana, The Register of Orange County reported Friday.
The newspaper said the case involves the first documented evidence of Cuban drugs coming into the United States with the cooperation of Cuban government officials.
Details of the investigation emerged Wednesday in Texas with the conviction of the ring's alleged pilot.
Federal agents said the ring operated for two years in violation of government embargoes on trade with Cuba by shipping computers and other equipment. Some of the return flights carried high-grade Cuban marijuana.
The major break in the case came when the smugglers' plane, a twin-engine Cessna 401B with long range fuel tanks and sophisticated radar and evasion gear, was discovered accidentally with a load of marijuana.
The plane reportedly hit a bird while flying low to avoid radar detection and the impact damaged its navigational equipment, forcing it to fly high enough that it showed up on radar screens at Corpus Christi, Tex., last October.
A Customs plane followed the aircraft to Cleburne, Tex., where it landed and pilot Michael Viles, 34, of Fort Worth, was arrested with 877 pounds of marijuana aboard. Chemical analysis show it almost certainly was grown in Cuba.