ST. GEORGE — Utah Highway Patrol troopers made three arrests during two traffic stops on Interstate 15 in Iron County within 12 hours of one another last weekend – traffic stops that yielded more than 31 pounds of methamphetamine.
The first traffic stop took place on Friday when a UHP trooper was conducting traffic enforcement shortly before noon on northbound I-15 near mile marker 55 just before Cedar City. The trooper noticed a silver Kia Optima with window tint that appeared to be darker than was legal.
According to charging documents filed with the report, the trooper stopped the car at mile marker 65, just a few miles north of Cedar City, and after speaking to the driver, identified as 25-year-old Sergio Baez Jr, the trooper learned through a records check the suspect was on probation out of Idaho and was driving on a suspended license.
A records check on the passenger, 24-year-old Nikolaus Garcia, also of Idaho, revealed his license was also suspended.
The trooper reportedly became suspicious when he found several inconsistencies with their stories, and when he asked if he could conduct a search of the vehicle, both men declined to consent. A tow truck was dispatched to the scene to tow the car, since neither suspect was legally authorized to drive.
Prior to the wrecker arriving, both men were allowed to remove their belongings, including two bags in the trunk of the car. One of the suitcases reportedly fell open, which is when one of the troopers noticed a package that appeared to have come from a marijuana dispensary but was in the shape of a brick.
Police also noticed a clear vacuum-sealed bag that was later determined to contain 6 pounds of methamphetamine, along with a number of marijuana cartridges.
Baez reportedly told troopers the package containing the methamphetamine was his. The dispensary bag containing the cartridges also had a receipt inside that belonged to Garcia, the report states, leading authorities to suspect that both men had full knowledge of the drugs inside of the car.
The pair was arrested and booked into the Iron County Jail on second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, along with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, each a misdemeanor. During the arrest, the officer also noted that Garcia was out on bail for an aggravated assault charge out of Idaho.
Approximately 12 hours later just after midnight, a trooper stopped a vehicle at mile marker 67 on northbound I-15 for failing to signal for two seconds while changing lanes.
During the course of the stop, the report states that the trooper became suspicious and deployed a K-9 to conduct a free air sniff around the outside of the car.
When the dog alerted to the possible presence of narcotics, troopers searched the car and recovered 19 one-pound packages of suspected methamphetamine from the trunk. Another six packages of suspected methamphetamine were recovered during a search of a backpack located on the floorboard of the vehicle, along with a pipe that was shoved in between one of the seats and the center console.
The driver, later identified as 42-year-old Scott Franklin Clay, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was arrested and booked into Iron County Jail facing second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, along with misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia and a citation for failing to signal for two seconds.
The trooper also noted that Clay has an extensive criminal history that includes a prior felony conviction of possession with intent to distribute out of Colorado.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the narcotics seized have a combined value of more than $500,000.
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.
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