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The State : Pilots Held in Smuggling

The pilot and co-pilot of a Salvadoran jetliner were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on suspicion of attempting to smuggle a cache of firearms to El Salvador. Customs agents said they recovered seven semiautomatic pistols and a .12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun after receiving a tip from an informant. The agents said it was not immediately determined whether the weapons were intended for any organized group. Special Customs agent Ed Adamson said the Los Angeles office received a tip Friday night saying that the cockpit crew of Flight 2511 of TACA International Airlines would be attempting to smuggle guns out of this country. Agents found the weapons in luggage being carried by two TACA flight attendants. Customs agents boarded the plane shortly before it was scheduled to take off and arrested pilot Francisco Jerez, 30, and co-pilot Francisco Panameno, 29, without incident. They were booked into the federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles on suspicion of violating the Neutrality Act, which prohibits the export of weaponry without a State Department license. Agents said the flight attendants, who apparently had no knowledge of the weapons, were not arrested. The airline had no immediate comment.


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