Several plastic ties containing suspected fentanyl pills were reportedly recovered from a vehicle during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 in St. George, Utah on March 13, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Washington City Police Department, St. George News
ST. GEORGE- A large quantity of fentanyl and methamphetamine was seized during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 in St. George on Sunday afternoon.
A Washington City police drug interdiction officer was stationary in his patrol vehicle facing northbound traffic on I-15 near the Port of Entry when a vehicle drove by with the license plate partially obscured, according to charging documents filed with the court.
The officer followed the car and noticed the bracket around the plate covering two of the numbers, making them impossible to see. He then got behind the vehicle as it headed north to St. George.
While following the car, the officer noticed that the driver would have changed lanes without signaling, as stated in the report, i.e. when a traffic stop was initiated and the car was stopped near the Dixie Drive exit shortly after 5 p.m.
Speaking to the driver, Maria Estafana Gomez, 39, a California resident of San Jose, the officer noted a strong smell of burning marijuana coming from inside the vehicle and, when asked, the driver said that ‘She didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Licence.
The officer also noticed that the driver’s voice seemed to crack and her hands were shaking, signs of “extreme nervousness”, he wrote, and when he asked if the driver had a medical marijuana card, she said no. She then reached under the seat and grabbed a small clear plastic bag containing suspected marijuana and handed it over to police.
He was asked to get out of the car and, according to the report, when asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, the driver replied “yes” and told the officer that she was “stuffed” on methamphetamine. The officer said that term is generally used to indicate that the car contained a large amount of narcotics which were trafficked across the country.
The driver was arrested as officers began to search the vehicle. In the trunk, they found a large white plastic bag containing several large, gallon-sized green plastic bags filled with suspected methamphetamine.
In the rear passenger seat area, police recovered a large cardboard box containing several more gallon-sized packets of the same substance.
Officers also recovered several packages containing blue pills compatible with fentanyl-containing pills.
Officers also noticed that the carpet on both sides of the vehicle appeared to have been tampered with, and when they attempted to remove the carpet, they realized it had been stuck to the floor. This is inconsistent with the methods used by the factory, according to the report, and the officer added that the glue was never used inside the vehicles during the manufacturing process.
When the carpet was removed, officers found two large compartments in the floor area of the car that ran from the rear of the vehicle to the front of the car, one compartment on each side. The passenger side contained several large plastic bags containing methamphetamine, as well as additional cartridges of suspected fentanyl pills, while the driver’s side compartment was empty.
In total, approximately 40 pounds of methamphetamine and 5-10 pounds of fentanyl pills were recovered and collected as evidence.
The suspect was arrested and questioned by Homeland Security Investigations agents and then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility. She faces multiple charges, including two counts of second degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. She also faces one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, driving with a denied license and one count of altering a vehicle compartment for contraband.
Fentanyl is killing Utahns at an alarming rate
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, primarily reaches the United States via Mexico, where recent trends indicate that fentanyl production is on the rise, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The DEA also says drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram – and one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.
According to a report recently released by Utah Poison Control, the number of deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, an increase of more than 125%, a trend that continued in 2021, which according to the center, is “an alarming”. rate.”
The report also states that the Utah Highway Patrol reported a 900% increase in the number of fentanyl seizures reported for the first quarter of 2021 – from January to March, compared to the amount of fentanyl seized in 2020 for the entire year.
Fentanyl is being distributed in counterfeit or “squeezed” pills, similar to what was found in Sunday’s raid, and these counterfeit pills are now nearly indistinguishable from genuine pharmaceutical pills or tablets. These tablets now make up more than 60% of all fentanyl samples submitted to the Utah Crime Lab, the Poison Control report says.
Following the arrest in Washington City on Sunday, Gomez remains in custody without bond.
This report is based on statements taken from court records, police or other stakeholders and may not contain the full extent of the conclusions. Those arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty by a court or until a trier of fact decides otherwise.
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