ST. GEORGE — Two weeks after being arrested on Interstate 15 in St. George with nearly 2 pounds of meth in his possession, an alleged St. George drug runner appeared in federal court Monday for a pretrial conference.
Santiago Tarula-Rivera, 45, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert T. Braithwaite, who ordered Tarula-Rivera jailed pending trial. The case is expected to be heard during a two-day jury trial set to begin July 18.
A joint narcotics investigation by the Washington County Drug Task Force and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency led to the arrest of Tarula-Rivera on April 26 for suspicion of felony drug possession with the intent to distribute.
Authorities had received information that Tarula-Rivera made regular trips from Southern California to St. George to deliver methamphetamine, according to an affidavit filed by the DEA in support of the criminal complaint.
On the day of the arrest, the investigation yielded information that Tarula-Rivera was making the alleged drug run and was heading back to St. George, prompting agents to obtain a federal anticipatory search warrant for Tarula-Rivera and any vehicle he occupied.
At approximately 3 p.m., law enforcement received the break they were looking for when they observed Tarula-Rivera driving a Toyota Camry on northbound Interstate 15, according to the affidavit. A traffic stop was conducted on the vehicle near mile marker 2.5 in Washington County and the search warrant was executed.
“A search of the vehicle revealed approximately 904 grams of a crystal substance,” the DEA agent stated in the affidavit, “later field tested and confirmed to be methamphetamine.”
Agents located the nearly 2 pounds of meth in a black Pelican case – a durable case that is typically chemical resistant and used for sensitive equipment – in the engine compartment of Tarula-Rivera’s vehicle, according to court documents.
The street value of 2 pounds of methamphetamine ranges from $70,000 to $80,000 if it’s sold in gram quantities, Washington County Drug Task Force Sgt. Jared Parry said.
Parry estimated the wholesale value of meth in the Washington County area to be around $5,000 to $10,000 per pound.
“For our area, that’s quite a bit (of drugs) to get at one time,” Parry said. “I mean that’s 900 grams when you break it down that way. Methamphetamine, on the street level, is typically sold between gram quantities and 8 ounce quantities so, when you break it down like that, that’s quite a bit of drugs.”
I-15 is a major corridor for drugs, Parry said, adding that a lot of the drugs intercepted by the Washington County Drug Task Force either come out of California or Las Vegas.
Tarula-Rivera was arrested and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was held with $50,000 cash-only bail required for his release pending trial. However, since Braithwaite’s detention order, Tarula-Rivera no longer has the option to bail out of jail prior trial.
Charges initially filed in 5th District Court were dropped last week and re-filed in the United States District Court of Utah.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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