Traffic stop on I-15 leads to $4.1 million meth bust — the largest in Arizona DPS history

ST. GEORGE — On Friday, an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper recovered more than 360 pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 just south of Littlefield, Arizona — the largest single meth seizure in the department’s history.

More than 360 pound of methamphetamine wrapped in black plastic was recovered during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 near Littlefield, Ariz., Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

“Arizona is under attack every day from the cartels,” Col. Frank Milstead with the Arizona Department of Public Safety said during a press conference Monday at the Public Service Center in Pheonix, Arizona.

The conference was held to announce the massive methamphetamine seizure that took place Friday after a trooper conducted a traffic stop on a couple heading north toward Utah.

During the stop, the trooper became suspicious of possible drug activity and a K-9 unit was deployed. The animal indicated to the presence of drugs during a sniff around the SUV, prompting a search of the vehicle. The trooper then located 362 pounds of methamphetamine that was wrapped in black plastic bags and concealed in a number of duffel bags hidden throughout the SUV.

The trooper requested a Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Deputy to assist in inventorying the drugs with an estimated street value of more than $4.1 million.

Julie Jeannie Mason, 52, of Burlington, Iowa, and Maurius Montez Mason, 38, of Peoria, Ill., booking photos taken in Mesquite, Nev., Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

The driver was identified as 52-year-old Julie Jeannie Mason of Burlington, Iowa, and the passenger as her husband, 38-year-old Maurius Montez Mason of Peoria, Illinois. Both were arrested for possession of a dangerous drug and transportation of a dangerous drug and were booked into the Mesquite Detention Facility in Nevada.

The stop on Friday was only one of about 515,000 cars stopped by troopers each year across Arizona. And what worries Milstead the most, he said, is the potential dangers to police associated with a traffic stop like the one that took place Friday.

“A trooper by himself, on a $4.1 million dollar load of methamphetamine,” Milstead said.

Milstead also spoke of the work being done to stop drug trafficking. He said there are 29 miles of I-15 that are heavily traveled by drug traffickers transporting illegal narcotics through the state. It is also the primary route from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, and from there it connects to a number of freeways that continue into other states, making it a convenient route for traffickers to take.

Packages of meth are stacked near K-9 after traffic stop where 363 pounds of methamphetamine was seized on I-15 near Littlefield, Ariz., Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

Additionally, he said, the drug trade is built on the fact that drug traffickers and distributors want people to become addicted, and to buy their product.

“And, if you die, they don’t care,” Milstead said.

Milstead also referred to another large illegal drug seizure that took place Friday when Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies recovered nearly 300 pounds of illegal drugs during a routine traffic stop on I-15 near milepost 21.

The driver, Logan Lewis Pederson, 30, of Sandy, was arrested after a search of his vehicle yielded nearly $3.7 million in assorted narcotics, including 66 pounds of liquid methamphetamine, more than 13 pounds of cocaine, two pounds of ecstasy and more than 200 pounds of THC. Pederson was subsequently transported to the Mohave County Adult Detention Facility.

The agency’s goal, Milstead said, is to make it as difficult as possible for the cartels and drug traffickers to move narcotics through Arizona.

“We want to protect primarily our young people from becoming addicted,” he said. “We’ll continue to do the job we need to do.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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