ST. GEORGE — Two suspects appeared in court Friday after authorities allegedly found more than $200,000 worth of methamphetamine in their trunk during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 last week.
Ricardo Cordero, 29, and Violet Armenta, 19, both of Los Angeles, appeared in 5th District Court Friday where each faced one second-degree felony count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, as well as misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia charges, according to charging documents filed with the court.
The charges stem from an incident that took place Wednesday when a Washington County Drug Task Force detective noticed a silver passenger car veer onto the shoulder and then return to the travel lane as it headed north near mile marker 18 just past the Hurricane Exit.
The car was stopped and the driver, later identified as Cordero, told police he didn’t have his driver’s license on him. He claimed to have “accidentally swerved,” then provided the officer with his school ID. The passenger identified herself as Armenta, but told the detective she had no ID.
While running a check on the vehicle and its occupants, the detective requested assistance from a Washington City K-9 officer who arrived on scene shortly thereafter.
The pair was asked to exit the car while the K-9 unit was deployed, and during a sniff around the vehicle, the dog, Atticus, indicated the presence of narcotics. The driver told the detective he had a marijuana cigarette in the center console of the car, the officer noted in the report.
During a search of the vehicle, officers allegedly found a small digital scale inside of a purse on the passenger’s side of the car, and in the trunk, they located 32 individually rolled oblong packages containing a white crystalline substance wrapped in clear plastic.
The packages came to a total weight of more than 36 pounds and came up positive for methamphetamine during a field test, the report said.
Officers also located a glass pipe with white residue on it under the passenger’s side front seat, the rolled marijuana cigarette in the center console and a small baggie in the center armrest containing a green substance that later tested positive for marijuana.
Both suspects were handcuffed and separated from one another.
According to authorities, the driver declined to make a statement and wasn’t questioned by police, while the passenger told officers she knew about the meth pipe and marijuana, but denied any knowledge of the large amount of methamphetamine in the trunk. She also denied any knowledge of the scale police found in her purse, but admitted that the purse was hers.
Both suspects were arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and were charged the following day with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a second-degree felony, along with one count of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
The Washington City K-9 team also assists the Washington County Drug Task Force and was working in that capacity when the stop took place. The case falls 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.
Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said that a number of these drug seizures, including the stop on Dec. 11, would not be possible were it not “for our K-9 partners,” adding that these highly-trained K-9 teams are a valuable resource when it comes to drug interdiction and other police work.
Cordero and Armenta appeared in 5th District Court Friday and are scheduled to appear for a felony roll call hearing Wednesday. Both suspects remain in custody on $10,000 bail each.
Updated Aug. 2, 3:30 p.m.: Both suspects were sentenced after pleading guilty. Click here for the story.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.