Officers recover more than $1.2 million in meth, fentanyl during traffic stop in Washington City

Composite image with background stock photo and overlay of Washington City Police vehicle taken in Washington City, Utah, May 11, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Washington City officers recovered more than 21 pounds of methamphetamine and 10 pounds of fentanyl pills during a traffic stop last Tuesday night – a drug seizure set in motion when an officer observed three traffic violations as the car quickly exited the interstate.

Officers recover 21 plastic bags of suspected methamphetamine and four packages containing 10,000 tablets each of suspected fentanyl during traffic stop in Washington City, Utah, July 6, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Washington City Police Department, St. George News

The incident took place shortly before 11 p.m., when an officer was stopped on northbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 12 and noticed a passenger vehicle traveling north in the outside lane.

The officer pulled onto the interstate and got directly behind the car that exited quickly and then proceeded through the stop sign on Washington Parkway without coming to a complete stop, according to the probable cause statement filed with the court.

It was at that point the officer noticed a rear-mounted camera affixed to the top of the license plate that also obscured several of the letters imprinted on the tag.

After observing three traffic violations, the report states, the officer stopped the car near the 900 block of Washington Parkway and spoke to the driver – later identified as 26-year-old Iram Issael Lopez-Lopez – who indicated he did not speak any English.

The passenger, identified as 23-year-old Carlos Ivan Fuentes-Alameda, also told authorities he spoke no English and officers later learned the suspects were traveling north through Utah and were originally from Sinaloa, Mexico.

The driver was asked to sit in the patrol vehicle while additional officers responded to the scene to assist.

A K-9 was deployed to conduct an exterior sniff around the vehicle. Once the animal indicated the possible presence of narcotics, a search of the car ensued.

During a search of the trunk area, officers found a large plastic bag and inside found 21 large zip-close bags containing a white, crystallized substance consistent with methamphetamine. The packages were later tested and weighed, with each weighing one pound.

File photo of a Washington City Police K-9 unit. Washington City, Utah, Dec. 23, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Vesting American Police K-9 Officers, St. George News

As the search continued into the interior of the car, officers found a shoebox located directly behind the driver’s seat and found four large, plastic-wrapped bundles. Each of the bundles contained “thousands of light-blue circular pills,” the officer noted, adding that each of the tablets were marked with an “M” on one side and a “30” inscribed on the other side – markings that were consistent with fentanyl pills.

The combined weight of the four packages came to roughly 10 pounds of suspected fentanyl, in addition to the 21 pounds of suspected methamphetamine that was also seized by police.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams told St. George News that each of the four packages contained an estimated 10,000 fentanyl pills.

He also said the pills recovered had a street value of as much as $650,000, depending on where they are sold, in addition to the methamphetamine valued at roughly $565,000. In total, he said, officers recovered more than $1.2 million in narcotics during the traffic stop.

The driver told police they were heading to Salt Lake City from Las Vegas when they were stopped by authorities, Williams said, but they also have ties to Sinaloa, Mexico.

Detectives with the Washington County Drug Task Force were also called out and responded to the scene to interview both suspects. The pair was then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where each faces two second-degree felony counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, 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, 2021, all rights reserved.

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