Police: More than $300K in fentanyl pills seized during traffic stop on I-15

ST. GEORGE — More than 5 pounds of what authorities suspect to be fentanyl pills were recovered during a traffic stop last weekend on northbound Interstate 15 in Iron County, a narcotic seizure that is estimated to have a street value of more than $300,000.

File photo for illustrative purposes only of a crash on Interstate 15 north of Cedar City, Utah, July 23, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to charging documents filed with the court, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper was monitoring traffic Friday morning on I-15 when he noticed a vehicle just north of Cedar City’s Exit 59 that was passing other cars at a high rate of speed. The trooper’s report states he pulled out onto the interstate after he clocked the car going 83 in a 75 mph speed zone.

The driver continued north and slammed on his brakes when he spotted the trooper, the report continues, adding that the trooper conducted a traffic stop near mile marker 61, still within Cedar City limits.

The driver, identified by his identification card issued in Mexico as 37-year-old Roberto Carlos Mendez-Coleote, allegedly told the trooper he did not have a driver’s license or any proof of insurance and that he had recently purchased the car.

The trooper reported that while speaking to the driver, he noticed Mendez-Coleote’s nose was bleeding slightly, and when asked about it, the driver told him he was having a nosebleed due to his ingesting  crystal methamphetamine.

Mendez-Coleote said he had ingested the drug the previous evening, which contradicted the suspect’s earlier statement that he hadn’t used the drug for more than six months, the trooper noted.

The driver failed a field sobriety test administered minutes later, and the trooper noticed a white powdery substance in the suspect’s nostrils, at which point the suspect was placed under arrest for DUI and a search was conducted on the vehicle.

In the trunk, the trooper found a backpack that contained vacuum-sealed double-walled packages containing approximately 5 1/2 pounds of unmarked pills that were “presumed to be fentanyl pills, with an extremely high street value,” the trooper noted.

Mendez-Coleote was arrested and transported to Iron County Jail on second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He also faces several misdemeanor drug and paraphernalia charges, as well as an infraction for speeding and a window-tint violation.

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, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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