Accessibility links

Breaking News

Jury Finds Russian Pilot Guilty of Conspiracy in NY Drug Case

This photo provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office shows Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko at the Republic of Liberia National Security Agency (RLNSA) headquarters on May 30, 2010, in Monrovia, Liberia

After three days of deliberations a federal jury has found Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko guilty of conspiracy to bring drugs into the United States.

Yaroshenko had been arrested in Liberia last May and was secretly extradited to the United States on June 1. He was tried with three Africans.

A drug investigation that was prompted with the help of Fumbah Sirleaf, the son of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has resulted in two convictions and two acquittals in New York federal court.

The Russian pilot and accused smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko was the most notorious in the case. One African, named Ume, was considered the mastermind of the drug deal and was found guilty along with Yaroshenko.

Federal authorities said the Liberian president’s son, who is also the head of the Liberian National Security Agency, aided the probe by posing as a corrupt Liberian official in a well-planned sting operation.

“It was very disappointing, I was hopeful because the jury was deliberating for two and one half days," said Yaroshenko’s defense lawyer Lee Ginsberg. "It seemed to us they had some serious questions to resolve. It may be the questions had to do with other defendants. It’s hard to speculate but that’s a possibility. “

The Russian government had accused the United States of kidnapping Yaroshenko in violation of international law and then deporting him illegally to the United States. The Russian request for his release was denied.

Yaroshenko’s wife Viktoria said after the verdict that the transcripts in the trial were wrong and the court translator was confused. She believes her husband is innocent.

“I didn’t expect the decision," she said. "From the moment Konstantin landed in Liberia, there were always five people with him. They introduced him to one of the co-conspirators, the mastermind. There was nothing else. "

His lawyer, Lee Ginsberg, said he cannot appeal until after sentencing this July 28.

The actual charge against Yaroshenko and the others was one count of conspiracy to transport drugs with the intent of bring them to the United States.