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Jury Selection to Begin for Valley Man Accused of Illegally Flying 4 People into U.S.

2 years 9 months 2 weeks ago Monday, January 07 2019 Jan 7, 2019 January 07, 2019 5:57 PM January 07, 2019 in News - Local

WESLACO – Jury selection is set to start Tuesday in the Rio Grande Valley for a man accused of flying four people without permission to be in the U.S. into the Weslaco airport.

According to court records, 80-year-old Louis Luyton flew four Central American men in to the U.S. on November 4, 2018.

The pilot had a revoked license when he landed at the Mid-Valley airport in Weslaco.

Homeland Security Investigators stopped him from continuing to Houston.

Luyton admitted to agents he was paid $3,000 to make the flight. He admitted he'd flown in others three times in August. 

The president's administration claimed illegal immigration happened in land, air and sea over the weekend.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with the Mid-Valley airport director to find out whether this attempt at smuggling people through the airport is a regular occurrence.

Unless you're a pilot, you've probably never visited the Mid-Valley Airport in Weslaco.

Aviation Director Andrew Muñoz says plenty of eyes are watching those who do land on their airstrip.

"Once, essentially, you start the aircraft, you're being monitored by FAA either through voice, as well as through radar," he says. "Once you're at the airport, you're being monitored by several agencies, as well as FAA, the local airport, local law enforcement, Homeland Security."

This airport is used by corporate business jets, hobbyists, law enforcement and flight school activities.

It's a small crowd. Louis Luyton was among them.

"He was a gentleman that we categorized as a seasonal type of individual. He wasn't based out of our airport. He didn't have usual typical usage of the airport. He did come in and frequent two or three other times,” says Muñoz.

The protocol for receiving planes depends on where they come from.

"If it is an international flight," Muñoz explains, "as soon as they arrive, we do have Customs and Border Protection on site and they are greeted directly with those individuals."

However, "if it is a domestic flight, then our ramp staff immediately as they arrive, we have staff to greet the aircraft, pilots and whatever passengers they have."

Muñoz doesn't take credit for Luyton's arrest.

He explains they received intelligence from DHS.

They were monitoring the plane before it even landed.

After that call, Muñoz got in touch with Weslaco police.

He credits that law enforcement cooperation for making the detention of the four Central American men and Luyton possible.

This kind of incident is rare – the first for Muñoz.

"It's been the only one, that I've been here that we were made aware of and that we participated. Outside of that, Weslaco Airport is a very quiet, very friendly airport," he explains.

 Muñoz is going on his third year as director. He sees the airport's small size as an opportunity to continue building on relationships between pilots and law enforcement.

In court documents, Luyton claims to be a naturalized citizen from Belgium. 

He said he was a fighter pilot for NATO during the Cold War.

He is a convict for using his pilot's license to smuggle drugs in 2010.

He expressed interest to undercover agents on working with Columbian drug importers.

The court handed him an eight-year prison sentence. 

He was released from prison by November of 2015.

On June of 2018, he was taken off supervised release for that conviction.

When he was interviewed by HSI agents, Luyton said he transported migrants illegally in a plane on three occasions just two months after his release.

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