Traffic stop leads to discovery of 24 pounds of methamphetamine near Cedar City

Utah Highway Patrol vehicles, Cedar City, Utah, July 2018 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — Utah Highway Patrol confiscated 24 pounds of methamphetamine after a routine traffic stop Sunday night on Interstate 15 near Cedar City.

Auriana Renee Lopez, booking photo posted in Iron County Utah, Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, 23-year-old Aurina Renee Lopez from Long Beach, California, and Edgar Miguel Perez-Medina from Fontana, California, were traveling north on I-15 at around 11 p.m. when they passed a UHP cruiser parked in the median near mile marker 57.

Officer Scott Mackelprang wrote in the probable cause statement that he observed the back license plate light wasn’t working and pulled behind the vehicle, noticing one of the vehicle’s brake lights was also not functioning correctly.

Mackelprang initiated a traffic stop for the two violations, and upon his approach of the vehicle, he could see open beer bottles. The officer spoke with Lopez and Perez-Medina and noticed discrepancies in their stories and observed indicators of criminal activity, the statement reported.

UHP Sgt. Nick Street told St. George News that officers are held to the “reasonableness standard” when it comes to suspicious activity. He said indicators of criminal activity could be that a car slows down quicker than others, a driver seems more nervous than the average person or an individual that is being detained makes statements that don’t make sense.

“Those are all things that can indicate criminal activity, things that get the hair on the back of your neck to stand up or – maybe more parlance of our time is – get your spidey senses tingling.”

A certified K-9 was deployed and completed a narcotic sniff on the outside of the vehicle, which yielded a positive alert. Mackelprang searched the vehicle and found 24 1-pound packages of methamphetamine inside three aftermarket compartments in the dashboard and firewall of the car.

Edgar Miguel Perez-Medina, booking photo posted in Iron County Utah, Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Lopez and Perez-Medina were arrested and transported to the Iron County Correctional Facility following further investigation.

The probable cause statement said Lopez may be a “substantial danger” to other people or the community and is likely to flee Iron County. Officials also believe Lopez might have ties to criminal organizations due to the large amount of narcotics in her possession, which has a street value of about $500,000. For these reasons, Lopez and Perez-Medina are facing continued detention.

Lopez and Perez-Medina were arrested on charges of a second-degree felony count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and misdemeanor counts of alteration of a vehicle compartment for contraband and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

“It’s scary but also cool that our troopers are able to interdict this amount of narcotics coming into or through our state,” Street said.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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