SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Federal charges have been filed against a man caught with more than 56 pounds of meth in West Valley City.
Court documents show that Osiel Ruvalcaba-Azpeitia was driving an SUV through West Valley City on Sunday when he was pulled over for a traffic violation.
A probable cause affidavit said that the officer who pulled Ruvalcana-Azpeitia's vehicle over was part of a K-9 unit, and that the police dog detected drugs inside the vehicle.
The court documents show that officers called in U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers, who searched the SUV and found more than 56 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in the ceiling panels of the vehicle.
The probable cause affidavit said that Ruvalcaba-Azpeitia was arrested and told DEA agents that he accepted the job to transport the drugs to Utah from California, where he lives.
In U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Ruvalcaba-Azpeitia was charged with one count of Meth Distribution.
If convicted he could spend a long time in prison.
"The penalties are very stiff," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund. "There's a maximum life sentence for this kind of crime."
The DEA says the bust which is the largest ever for meth in Utah ends a year long investigation involving members of the Mexican drug cartel. And the agency is hopeful for future arrests.
"The significant thing through this undercover operation is that we've identified commanding control elments in Mexico and anticipate indicting them down the road," says Frank Smith, DEA Assistant Agent in Charge.
It appears Ruvalcaba-Azpeitia was just a runner for the cartel. In court documents he claimed he was promised $500 per pound of meth delivered and sold to a Utah connection, and that he needed the money to finish his college education and to care for his ailing mother. The 56 pounds could have earned him $28,000 in cash.
"He was well aware of the hidden compartment of the car and presence of the drugs," Lund says. "He was the only one in the vehicle."