HOUSTON - Two pilots who were wrongly detained for nearly a year and a half in a Panama jail returned home to Houston on Wednesday to a heroes' welcome.
Carl Moody and Kenneth Chonoski were greeted with cheers and hugs at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The men were held in Panama for 17 months after being accused of money laundering. The charges were dropped last week, allowing them to finally come home.
"We've missed you all. Missed everybody. Nice thing is we're home and we don't have to go back," Moody said.
The trouble began in May 2011 when the two were piloting an American Jet International charter flight from Honduras to Panama.
"We had just finished a concert in Central America and were flying the promoters back to their home country and the passengers actually had a suitcase full of cash," said Roger Woolsey, AJI president.
The suitcase had more than $2 million in cash and Panamanian inspectors began asking questions.
"Then they immediately asked whose bags are these and the passengers quickly said they didn't know," Woolsey said.
Everyone on board was detained.
"It's a cumbersome system and it takes a while to work your way through it. But we got through it and innocence prevailed and we're home and we're ready to go back to our lives," Chonoski said.
The ordeal forced Chonoski and his fiancé to postpone their wedding three times. They plan to finally have their wedding.
Moody said he and his wife are also moving on.
"Relax. Take a couple of months. Joann and I are going to get in our motor home and we're going to tour around in the bus and see some people. And if we still have a job, go back to work," Moody said.
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