Dark window tint leads to discovery of $1.6 million worth of fentanyl pills in St. George, deputy says

Washington County Sheriffs pursued a suspected counterfeiter along State Route 7 Wednesday afternoon, St. George, Utah, May 24, 2023 | stock photo by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A passenger car with dark window tint passed by a deputy on Interstate 15 in Washington County on Wednesday, which led to a traffic stop that netted more than 62,000 suspected fentanyl pills.

2019 stock image for illustrative purposes only of Interstate 15 in Washington County, Utah, Jan. 3, 2019 | St. George News

Shortly after 11:40 p.m., a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy was parked in the median surveying northbound traffic along I-15 near the St. George Boulevard Exit “observed its front drivers window to be tinted passed the point of visibility into the vehicle,” the deputy noted in the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

A minute or so later, the vehicle was stopped for the alleged tint violation, and while explaining the reason for the stop, the driver, identified as a Mexican national, 19-year-old Rigoberto Beltran- Garibay, of Sinaloa, was asked to accompany the deputy to the patrol vehicle.

Meanwhile, a second officer responded and deployed a K-9 to conduct a free-air sniff around the exterior of the car, and the animal reacted to the possible presence of narcotics. The passenger, 29-year-old Karen Yvonne Alvarez, of Aurora, Colorado, was asked to step out of the vehicle.

During a search of the trunk, officers found 62 individual packages – each containing an estimated 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills that were small, blue pills with similar markings.

Photo shows bags of fentanyl pills allegedly seized during the traffic stop, Washington County, Oct. 6, 2022 | Photo courtesy Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

In the glove compartment, deputies recovered a dollar bill containing suspected cocaine that later field tested positive for the narcotic, and following the discovery, the Washington County Drug Task Force was dispatched to the scene to assist in the investigation and in interviewing the suspects.

The packages had a combined weight of more than 15 pounds, and detectives estimated there were roughly 62,000 pills in total.

Once Alvarez was read her rights, she initially answered “a few questions” but then declined to speak to detectives, she was arrested and then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

When broken down into street-level sales, the pills were valued at more than $1.6 million, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Following the arrest, the deputy also requested that the driver be held without bail, based on the number of pills that was consistent with drug smuggling, the driver had no ID issued out of any state, only an identification card issued out of Mexico, and stated the case would be reviewed for possible federal charges. The deputy also asked that the passenger be held without bail as well.

The request was granted and the suspects remain in custody without bail.

Updated Oct. 10 at 5:12 a.m. to include a photo of the fentanyl pills.

 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, 2022, all rights reserved.

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