1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Is Ron DeSantis flying on a drug-seized plane? Unlikely.

FDLE didn’t get it from a drug dealer, but its origins are still mysterious.
A 2003 Raytheon Aircraft Company B300 fixed wing, multi engine plane, as it takes off from Prestwick Airport in Scotland, United Kingdom in September 2011. The plane is believed to be the same plane that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is using and is currently registered to Florida Department of Law Enforcement. [Photo courtesy of Robert Banks]
Published Feb. 14
Updated Feb. 14

It’s been one of the most enduring mysteries of the last month in Tallahassee: Who’s the drug dealer who owned the plane Gov. Ron DeSantis is flying around on?

After more than five weeks of wondering, here’s your answer: The governor is not flying around on a drug dealer’s plane seized by state police.

That doesn’t mean its story is any less mysterious, though.

The real story behind the plane is that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement bought it from the federal government at surplus for $10,000 in 2016.

Since then, it’s been used for various law enforcement missions, and it once took former Gov. Rick Scott to Puerto Rico, according to the FDLE.

The plane received scant attention until Jan. 7, when DeSantis, on the eve of his inauguration, told reporters how he planned to get around the state. He had been left in the lurch by his predecessor. When Scott became governor in 2011, he sold off the state’s fleet. Scott, a multi-multi-millionaire, could get around fine on his own plane.

So how then was DeSantis flying around now that he was governor? “FDLE does have a plane that was seized, a drug seizure, that’s been upgraded,” DeSantis told reporters last month.

Since then, it’s been the butt of jokes, and served as justification to buy the governor a new plane.

After the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Tampa Bay with DeSantis and the attorney general aboard in early January, the Florida Senate’s budget chairman called it “ridiculous.” An air leak around the door seal had caused the air pressure warning light to come on and masks to drop down from the ceiling, according to FDLE.

But until Wednesday, no one had provided details about where the plane came from or who it had once belonged to.

Why DeSantis says it’s a drug-seized plane is another mystery. His spokespeople won’t say, instead referring a reporter to statements made Wednesday by FDLE.

Online records from FlightAware show that the plane’s most recent owner was not the federal government, but a Tallahassee entity called J&D Petroleum Co.

That company appears to exist nowhere. It’s not a registered corporation with Florida’s Secretary of State, and its address is in a mailbox store that’s been shut down -- about 11 minutes away from Florida’s Capitol.

A very similar company — J and D Petroleum Co., also not registered with the state — uses the same nondescript address.

That company owns two small Cessna airplanes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, yet it owes Florida’s Department of Revenue nearly $230,000 in unpaid taxes, according to a list of delinquent taxpayers.

Before that, the plane was owned by U.S. Special Operations Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, according to FlightAware, and before that, a few out-of-state companies.

Since FDLE bought it, about $600,000 has been spent upgrading its engines and interior.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen used it to fly to Fort Lauderdale in 2017 after a gunman killed five people at the airport, according to FDLE. Scott took it to Puerto Rico after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria because it was determined that his personal plane couldn’t land at the airport there, according to FDLE.

And when a child from Polk County went missing in 2016, FDLE used the plane to pick her up in Tennessee, according to the department.

Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Howard Altman contributed to this report.


  1. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  2. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  3. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  4. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
  5. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  6. Igor Fruman - Lev Parnas Miami Herald
    Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — now subpoenaed to turn over documents in the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump — sought to invest in one of Florida’s state-issued cannabis licenses.
  7. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  8. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, announces his education proposals in front of Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa last month. He says he wants to reduce "bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency" in Florida schools. But many educators say their budgets are already cut to the bone. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    DeSantis said Wednesday he will call for expanding state oversight of septic tanks, developing better oversight of wastewater and stormwater systems and requiring the state to track agricultural...
  9. In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    “We’re looking at it, we’re going to be thorough in our investigation, and we will hold accountable any companies that are intentionally targeting and misleading our youth regarding vaping products,”...
  10. From left to right: Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Miami Herald
    David Correia, who worked with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, is now in federal custody and will be arraigned Thursday before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken in Manhattan federal cour