Drone-Piloting California Drug Dealers Sentenced to Years in Prison

Benjamin Baldasarre and Ashley Carroll were arrested for aerially delivering hard drugs to a local parking lot. They're now facing jail time.

TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Last September, we reported on a Riverside, California couple getting arrested for aerially dealing and delivering drugs using a drone, while their child was living in squalor amidst syringes, drugs, and other contraband. We knew then that the two drone-enthusiast criminals, Benjamin Baldasarre and Ashley Carroll, were charged with possession of controlled substances for sale and child endangerment, but we now know just how far their drone-based drug dealing has gotten them.

According to The Press-Enterprise, Baldasarre and Carroll both entered guilty pleas to not only possession of controlled substances for sale and child endangerment, but to the distribution of methamphetamine, as well. This, of course, was achieved in a fairly creative and heavily misguided way, with the couple’s drone delivering drugs to clients awaiting delivery in a nearby parking lot, and the money being tossed onto the couple’s yard after successful delivery. Not really the quietest, or the subtlest way to exchange methamphetamine without getting caught.

The guilty pleas ensured that one possession charge and one misdemeanor count related to possession of drug paraphernalia be dropped, but both defendants have been sentenced to substantial prison time, nonetheless. Baldasarre was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison, with Carroll receiving a one-year sentence in county jail and 36 months of probation. Fortunately for the former, his sentence was reduced to 20 months in prison, as he was given time served for the past six months in jail, with a state provision attempting to reduce prison overcrowding taking another six months off the sentence.

In case you don’t remember this bizarre case of brazenly illegal drone use, let’s catch you up. Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback and his department were alerted to potential drug dealing outside of a south Riverside residence, and it didn’t take long to confirm that as accurate. Once detectives began surveillance of the house, they began to observe a drone being deployed from the backyard, only to whirr off to a nearby parking lot where packages where dropped to eagerly awaiting clients. The subsequent search warrant request was authorized without issue, and implemented on Dec. 21 of last year. 

Riverside Police Department

Benjamin Baldasarre and Ashley Carroll, respectively.

Unfortunately, while police put an end to the illegal drone-centric distribution of hard drugs, not everything was resolved that day. Officers found “used and uncapped hypodermic syringes scattered throughout a bedroom” in the couple’s residence, with methamphetamine and a substantial amount of fentanyl. Baldasarre’s 9-year-old daughter was taken into custody by Child Protective Services, and eventually released to her mother. 

We have reported on a vast amount of irresponsible and highly illegal drone use in the past, ranging from smuggling drugs and contraband into prison, entering no-fly zones in public sporting events, near critical infrastructure, and near major U.S. landmarks. Recently, the FAA added 29 new prisons and Coast Guard facilities to the specifically drone-centric list of restricted airspace across the country. While it’s unfortunate to see people abuse this new, affordable, inspiring technology for amoral and illegal financial gain, it’s important to remember that drones are merely a tool: It’s the user who’s at fault here, not the UAV or its use in a parking lot.