Drug-Laden Drone Takes to the Riverside Sky, Suspects Land in Jail

Two suspected drug dealers literally took their business to a new level, Riverside police say.

Detectives arrested two residents of the Orangecrest neighborhood Thursday, Dec. 21, the culmination of an investigation that began when officers observed a drone take off from a backyard and drop into a nearby parking lot a package of narcotics that was picked up by the suspects’ customers, police said.

There have been reports of criminals using drones to deliver drugs , cell phones and other contraband to prison yards, but Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said Friday that he believes this is the first time that someone has used a drone to transport illegal drugs in the city.

Benjamin Paul Baldassarre (Courtesy of Riverside police)

Ashley Lauren Carroll (Courtesy of Riverside police)

“Most of the drone calls we get are nuisance or people worried they are being videotaped,” Railsback said.

Benjamin Paul Baldassarre, 39, and Ashley Lauren Carroll, 31, were arrested and booked into Robert Presley Detention Center on suspicion of possession of controlled substances, possession of controlled substances for the purposes of sales, conspiracy and child endangerment.

Both were in custody Friday with bail set at $50,000 each.

The development means that police, once again, must evolve with the criminals, Railsback said.

“It’s just now that law enforcement is going to have to adjust to these new tactics just like we do with any time of crime – car theft, car burglary, computer crimes to commit fraud,” he said. “We learn of a new tactic that the bad guys are using and we adjust to get a couple of steps ahead of them.

“It’s literally a cat-and-mouse game.  It’s a new way of chasing the mouse,” Railsback said.

The investigation began in early December when police were tipped to the drone being used to deliver drugs. Detectives were staking out the neighborhood when they spotted the drone leave the yard in the 8700 block of Chesapeake Lane and deposit the drugs in the parking lot.

Then on Dec. 21, detectives served a search warrant at the residence, where a news release said they discovered used and uncapped hypodermic syringes and unpackaged powder believed to be the super-powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl .

Police officers handling fentanyl have been known to become seriously ill.

The police bomb squad and the Riverside city Fire Department responded because of safety concerns.

Detectives also found methamphetamine and suspected LSD-laced candy, as well as the drone, the release said.

The child-endangerment charged stemmed from the discovery of a vape pen containing marijuana in the bedroom of a 9-year-old girl.

“It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on marijuana – its uses good and bad – I think most people can agree it’s not good for a 9-year-old girl to have that kind of access,” Railsback said.

Railsback said in some ways, this was no different than any other investigation.

“Even though this was a new and creative technique for a drug dealer to deliver his product to a customer, it was kind of just good old-fashioned police work, going out to the neighborhood, doing surveillance and developing a probable cause for a search warrant,” he said. [Click for More]