Contraband Flown By Drone Onto Prison Grounds

Man charged with delivering marijuana to his ex-home

View Document

Ex-Con's Drone

JUNE 7--A former inmate of a Nebraska prison was arrested yesterday for allegedly using a drone to deliver marijuana and tobacco to the lockup in Lincoln, a smuggling bid that failed when the $1300 quadcopter crashed.

Investigators charged Robert Kinser, 37, with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a felony, in connection with a plot to introduce contraband into the Lincoln Correctional Center, which houses about 500 male prisoners.

According to an arrest warrant, an inmate on a work detail last year found a downed DJI Phantom 4 drone on prison property. Two plastic pouches holding pot, tobacco, and rolling papers were attached to the crashed unmanned aerial vehicle.

The warrant does not address for whom the contraband was intended.

The drone, investigators determined, was outfitted with an after-market release mechanism which “allowed for remotely activating the deployment of the drone’s payload.” Additionally, the drone’s navigation lights were covered with black tape.

A subsequent Nebraska State Patrol examination of the drone’s memory card yielded video clips and still images, some of which were shot at a demolition site where Kinser worked as a foreman. Extracted GPS data showed that the drone was flown above or in the vicinity of the prison on two days.

Questioned about the recovered images, Kinser acknowledged piloting the drone over the work site. However, when asked about another photo that was taken over the Lincoln prison’s grounds, Kinser denied responsibility for that drone image.

Pictured in the above mug shot, Kinser denied trying to fly contraband beyond the prison’s walls. He also claimed not to have lost control or crashed the drone near the prison. Asked about the quadcopter’s remote drop mechanism, Kinser said it “was for fishing with the drone.”

Kinser spent about nine years incarcerated in the Lincoln prison. Convicted of methamphetamine distribution, assault on a peace officer, and weapons possession, Kinser was released from custody in December 2010. The arrest warrant notes that Kinser has tattoos “indicating ties to white supremacist views and northern European heathenism symbolism.”  

Kinser told an investigator that he sold the Phantom 4 drone via Craigslist within a week or two of purchasing it. He said that the buyer gave him $800 in a Walmart parking lot for “the drone and all of its accessories.” But Kinser was unable to provide proof of the Craigslist ad or any of the text messages he claimed to have exchanged with the buyer.

A subpoena to Craigslist returned no drone ads connected to Kinser’s email address.

A police examination of Kinser’s phone revealed an application that was used to fly the DJI drone. Flight data stored on the app showed that the drone had been flown above and near the Lincoln prison on multiple days.

If convicted of the new felony drug charge, Kinser faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence. (9 pages)