Feds Allege Tech CEO Designed ‘Parasitic Narco Sub’ for Drug Cartels

Millionaire Marty Tibbitts died in 2018. The DEA said he was at the center of a vast criminal conspiracy involving cocaine, submarines, and cash.
Narco Sub
Image: DEA photograph

Michigan millionaire Marty Tibbitts lived a dream life. He was the CEO of a successful business and a flight hobbyist who founded the World Heritage Aviation Museum in Detroit. But the Drug Enforcement Administration said Tibbitts lived a double life, taking on the name “Dale Johnson,” financing an international drug empire, and designing submarine drones to slip past drug interdiction officers in Europe.


Tibbitts, the former CEO of Clementine Live Answering Service, died in 2018 in a plane crash at the age of 50. Tibbitt’s life as “Dale Johnson” came to light when federal authorities arrested Tibbitts’ alleged partner in crime, Ylli Didani. As first reported by Detroit News, the indictment against Didani detailed a world of drugs, guns, and narco submarines spanning the world. 

“The investigation has revealed that the [drug trafficking organization] has organizational ties to the United States, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Albania, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands,” the indictment said.

Authorities arrested Didani in North Carolina and searched his phone which allegedly turned up pictures of Didani posing with guns and stacks of cash. 

“During the secondary inspection, which included an examination of Didani’s luggage, officers discovered seven vials of Kigtropin, or Human Growth Hormone,” the indictment said. “Since it is illegal in the United States to possess the controlled substance Kigtropin, all seven vials were seized by CBP.”

The feds said they found undeleted conversations between Didani and Tibbits on Didani’s phone. The conversations took place on Viber, a secure messaging app that the Electronic Frontier Foundation scored as a miserable 1 out of 7 for security back in 2014. “The contents of the Viber thread contained messages between Didani and [Tibbitts] that discussed a variety of topics involving the illegal movement of money, the receipt of packages via FedEx, the creation of fraudulent passports and the sale of bulk cocaine,” the indictment said.

Tibbitts also allegedly conspired with the drug cartels to design and create a parasitic narco submarine drone called the “torpedo.” Parasitic submarines work by attaching to the hull of larger ships. “The drone was to possess an underwater modem and GPS antenna that could communicate with an operator electronically from a large distance away,” court documents said. “The drone was intended to be remotely operated and could release from the vessel at the request of the operator and would send up a GPS location beacon to identify its current location.”

Didani’s phone contained the plans for the torpedo, photographs of the sub being built, hand-written notes detailing its dimensions and use, computerized prototypes of the sub, and discussions between Tibbitts and Didani about how to deploy it. According to the DEA, the submarine plot died with Tibbitts. 

In the DEA’s telling, Tibbitts was the brains and the money of the operation and Didani allegedly supplied the contacts. “After the unexpected sudden death of [Tibbitts], the Didani [drug trafficking operation] needed a new financier for the organization,” the indictment said. “Didani’s international travel grew exponentially.”