CEDAR CITY (ABC4 News) – Five people have been arrested in the past month after Utah Highway Patrol troopers seized 50 pounds of methamphetamine in two separate busts along I-15 near Cedar City in the past month.
On Sunday, a UHP trooper pulled over a driver for a minor traffic violation after noticing the license plate light was not functioning and observed two open beer cans in the vehicle. Upon questioning, the man and woman gave conflicting stories, so a police K-9 sniffed the exterior of the vehicle and identified the odor of narcotics, according to probable cause documents.
“Sometimes they might give us bizarre answers to simple questions,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said. “If there’s a passenger in the car, conflicting statements from the two about a destination can alert troopers that maybe something more is going on.”
Police seized 24 pounds of suspected methamphetamine valued at $500,000 concealed inside of “3 aftermarket manufactured compartments in the dash and firewall of the vehicle,” the report states.
Edgar Miguel Perez Medina, 25, and Auriana Renee Lopez, 23, were arrested for possession with intent to distribute, altering a vehicle compartment for contraband and possession of drug paraphernalia.
On July 11, troopers pulled over a driver for a minor traffic violation, and the driver stated he and other passengers were traveling to Minnesota. The man told officers he did not have his driver’s license on him and could not identify the man in the passenger seat. Troopers became suspicious of criminal activity and a police K-9 was called to the scene.
“The spare tire was unusually heavy and didn’t roll like it should. Inside the spare tire were 10 packages of suspected narcotics,” which weighed more than 29 pounds, according to the police report.
Adrian Garcia, 39, who was driving the vehicle, was arrested for possession with intent to distribute, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and DUI.
Ruben Apolinar-Morales, 28, a passenger in the vehicle was charged with drug distribution and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jose Benavidez, 66, was charged with possession with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and obstruction of justice.
“What’s interesting is that one of these circumstances, our investigators were able to determine it was coming here locally,” said Street.
UHP troopers said they’re concerned and seeing a lot more of methamphetamine specifically than they ever used to, which they say is due to a large supply now being produced in “super-labs from south of the border.”
“A lot of it is coming from super-labs there, and the ease of it being manufactured there, the demand and supply way outreaches the demand here locally now for people to self produce their own methamphetamine,” said Street, which he explained has reduced the number of meth labs locally.
Throughout 2019, UHP troopers have seized 219 pounds of meth off of roadways, valuing anywhere from three to five million dollars, according to authorities.
Street said these large scale busts are due to the strong collaboration among law enforcement, bringing together local tasks forces, road troopers, sheriff’s offices, and state agents and investigators.