Meridian man arrested after 180 pounds of pot found in his plane

Credit: Uintah County Sheriff's Office

Randall Patrick Watson

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by Matt Standal

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KTVB.COM

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 16 at 2:39 PM

Vernal, Utah

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VERNAL, Utah -- A 56-year-old Idaho man has bonded out of a Utah jail after being accused of transporting nearly 200 pounds of pot in his airplane.

Randall Patrick Watson of Meridian was arrested late Tuesday night and charged with second-degree felony possession of marijuana, according to the Uintah County Attorney's Office.

That's an important change, since deputies earlier said Watson had been charged with the intent to distribute the pot.

Uintah County deputies responded to the Vernal Regional Airport about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a tip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that an arriving pilot might be transporting drugs.

Deputies say a drug-sniffing police dog alerted on Watson's Cessna 182 Skylane and indicated that there might be drugs inside.

Afterward, they obtained a search warrant and found four large duffel bags filled with dozens of compressed plastic packages of marijuana.

Undersheriff John Laursen said deputies found 180 pounds of the drug, which could sell for about $436,000, easily qualifying as the largest drug bust in the county's history.

DEPUTIES: PILOT'S PATH UNKNOWN

Laursen also said Vernal, Utah wasn't Watson's final destination.

"We believe this was a refueling stop and he was headed somewhere else," Laursen said, adding that the case is still under investigation.

However, it's not clear if the 56-year-old is the sole owner of the airplane in question. Sheriff's deputies did say he was one of the registered owners, apparently leaving the possibility that more owners could be involved in the transport of the drugs.

Watson is now scheduled to make his first appearance in court in December 2nd -- but only if he shows up.

In Utah, the crime of second-degree posession of marijuana (with the amount over 100 pounds) is punishable by up to 15 years in jail and and $10,000 fine.

We checked Watson's criminal record here in Idaho, and it's relatively clean. The only violation we found was a $78 speeding ticket from 2007.

KTVB asked the Idaho State Police about possible involvement in the case, but officials declined to comment.

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