ST. GEORGE — Utah Highway Patrol troopers seized 100 pounds of methamphetamine and more than 500 oxycodone pills during three separate traffic stops conducted over the course of two days, authorities say.
The first stop took place Tuesday shortly after 8:30 a.m. when a trooper stopped a vehicle heading east on Interstate 70 in Emery County, according to a statement released by UHP Friday.
During the stop, the trooper became suspicious of possible drug-trafficking while speaking with both the driver and his passenger.
A K-9 unit was deployed, and during a sniff around the vehicle, the dog indicated the presence of narcotics. According to the statement, troopers searched the vehicle and discovered 20 pounds of methamphetamine and between 500-1000 oxycodone pills concealed within the vehicle.
Troopers suspected the drugs were transported from Southern California and were destined for Canton, Ohio.
Less than two hours later, another trooper made a traffic stop at the same location and, similar to the first stop, the trooper became suspicious of possible criminal activity. Another K-9 sniff signaled possible narcotics, and a search of the vehicle ensued. Authorities say more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine was found inside of the car and that the drugs were being transported from Compton, California, to Omaha, Nebraska.
The following day, a vehicle heading north on Interstate 15 in Iron County was stopped shortly after 5 p.m. During a search of the vehicle, nearly 40 pounds of methamphetamine on its way from Los Angeles to Colorado was instead seized by police.
UHP trooper Colton Freckleton said that while the stops were unrelated, they all took place within a short time-frame in close proximity to one another.
He said the cases fall under Operation Pipeline, a national highway interdiction program supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Seizures from private vehicles are reported to Operation Pipeline by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies operating along the highways and interstates most frequently used to transport illegal drugs and their proceeds.
Under federal law, if a person is caught trafficking any amount over 5 grams of actual meth or 500 grams of a mixture, they can be charged federally. Additionally, if the drugs are transported over state lines, then federal law applies, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal law mandates a prison term for the first conviction of at least five years for anyone convicted of possessing 5 grams of meth with the intent to distribute it, and at least 10 years for possessing 50 grams for distribution purposes.
During the first traffic stop, 20 pounds of methamphetamine was seized, totaling 9,070 grams. Officers recovered 40 pounds on each of the subsequent traffic stops, which is the equivalent of more than 17,690 grams per stop.
The combined amount of 100 pounds of methamphetamine can provide approximately 1.1 million individual doses of the illicit substance, carrying an estimated street value of more that $2.2 million, Freckleton said.
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