On April 28, 2011 Indiana State Trooper White stopped Patrick Austin as he was traveling east along the 80/90 Toll road to conduct a routine vehicle inspection. Austin was driving an extended cab trailer with an attached enclosed trailer containing a black 2008 Rolls Royce Phantom and a white 2007 Mercedes-Benz. After completing his inspection and noting the incomplete shipping documents and logs, Trooper White released Austin to continue toward his destination.

Peterbuilt Cab and Trailer

After releasing Austin from the traffic stop, Trooper White contacted the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) which provided him with information about a seizure of one million dollars in bulk cash two years previous, as Austin was heading west just north of the Michigan boarder. Trooper White notified Indiana State Police Trooper Dockery and his K-9 partner Hondo of the information. Trooper White also contacted Michigan State Trooper Patino, who handled the previous stop in Michigan.

Trooper Dockery observed Austin’s vehicle traveling east toward Elkhart and after observing two traffic violations, conducted a traffic stop in Elkhart County. During the traffic stop Trooper Dockery ran his K-9 partner around the vehicle where Hondo alerted to the presence of narcotics in the cab area, at the trailer, and on the Mercedes-Benz inside the trailer. Trooper Dockery then obtained a search warrant.

After off-loading the Mercedes-Benz and the Rolls Royce, ISP troopers inspected the Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz and located 29 kilos, around 64 pounds, of cocaine bricks stored in a hidden compartment of the Mercedes-Benz. The opening switch for the trunk of the Rolls Royce was disabled, and troopers had to order a key from Rolls Royce in the UK to be able to open the vehicle. A week later, troopers received the key and located an additional 11 kilos of cocaine inside the trunk of the Phantom.

Mercedes and CocianeOn May 4, 2011 the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office charged Patrick Austin with Dealing in Cocaine, a Class A felony. The Peterbuilt tractor, the attached enclosed trailer, and the vehicles containing the cocaine were seized during the investigation.

Within days of the traffic stop, a representative from the M Car Company contacted Investigator Dave Gizzi of the Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. According to the representative, the Rolls Royce Phantom was a leased vehicle, and they were attempting to reclaim it due to non-payment. Unbeknownst to Austin, the original leasing agency had installed a Blackline GPS system inside the Rolls Royce Phantom and it had recently activated at the State Police post along the toll road.

Vehicle technicians were able to remove the GPS from inside the dashboard of the vehicle, and investigators obtained associated records for the device from Blackline GPS. Analysis of the data showed that over the past seven months the vehicle was based mostly out of the greater LA area, but also trips to the Perrysburg, OH area.

Austin’s five day jury trial began on October 24, 2011 in Elkhart County Superior Court 3. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Peter Britton presented the State’s case facing a four person legal defense team including lawyers from Detroit and Indianapolis. The State called numerous investigators from the Indiana State Police, Michigan State Police and local law enforcement.

Rolls Royce

Prosecutor’s Office Investigator Dave Gizzi testified regarding his trip to California. During his trip Investigator Gizzi visited Austin’s million dollar home in Rancho Cucamonga, California. During the initial traffic stop Austin told investigators he was not familiar with the vehicles he was hauling, however pictures on Austin’s phone showed the Rolls Royce in front of Austin’s house taken just 6 weeks before its final trip to Elkhart County. He also had an opportunity to visit dealerships involved with some of the fraudulent transactions surrounding the vehicles.

The State also called an expert from Blackline GPS who traveled from Canada to testify regarding the device located in the Rolls Royce and the corresponding records. Data from the GPS records indicated that on two occasions in 2010 the vehicle was located in hotel parking lots in Perrysburg, OH. Investigators followed up on this lead and found Austin had stayed at the corresponding hotels when the Rolls Royce was in the parking lot. Further investigation located records for at least five additional hotel stays, although Austin’s extended cab included sleeping quarters.

Each of the hotel stays after January 2011 corresponded with gaps in the GPS data, similar to the gaps in the 2010 data from the occasions when the Rolls Royce was being transported back and forth from Perrysburg, OH. Time gaps in the GPS data combined with records from Perrysburg, Ohio hotels indicated Austin may have made as many as seven similar cross-country trips in 2010-2011 before the seizure in Elkhart County.

Patrick Austin Booking Photo

In all DPA Britton calculated this traffic stop and the subsequent investigation by law enforcement kept approximately 200,000 doses of cocaine with a street value of about four million dollars off the streets of American cities. An Elkhart County jury found Austin guilty of two counts of Dealing in Cocaine, a Class A felony, and he was sentenced to 40 years in the Indiana Department of Correction. On November 15, 2013 the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana upheld Patrick Austin’s conviction.

While the Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was responsible for holding Austin accountable for his crimes, agents across the country have continued to investigate the operations of the larger drug trafficking network.

Check out this recent article in the Detroit News explaining how this local conviction ties into the ongoing cross-country investigation.