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Hundreds of pounds of weed is seized on I-80

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A routine traffic stop on Interstate 80 near Silver Creek yielded deputies almost 500 pounds of marijuana worth about $3 million, the authorities said.

"With that much dope, they’re supplying a pretty good geographic area, plus, it is real expensive stuff," Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Mike Root said.

The Midwest suspect, who is in his 50s, was driving the marijuana to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where DEA agents worked with the man to nab several others, Root said.

The suspect was driving at a high rate of speed and following too closely when he was stopped on eastbound I-80 Aug. 4 by Sheriff’s Office deputy Bryan Cunningham, according to Josh Wall, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

"[Cunningham] had probable cause to search the vehicle based on the odor coming from the truck," Root said. "It was pretty strong He had two big duffle bags in the cab and the full bed was loaded with marijuana."

The driver appeared nervous and told Cunningham the Chevrolet pickup truck belongs to his friend, Wall said, adding that the suspect did not give the name of the friend.

A search dog named Castor then sniffed the exterior of the truck and indicated drugs were inside.

Fifty-three pounds of marijuana was initially located inside the cab, Wall said.

"It was the best marijuana I have ever seen, hydro out of California and lightly packed," he said. "Whereas, you get Mexican bud and it’s all compressed under two tons of weight It was probably $3,000-a-pound marijuana, minimum."

A man in the Minneapolis, Minn. area attempted to buy the marijuana from a grower in California, Root said, adding that "600 pounds is pretty good for Minneapolis."

"There is kind of a knack to knowing which one of these is going to go and which one of these you are going to be sitting in the parking lot for a week and nobody is going to ever show up," Root said, about the undercover operation that nabbed more suspects.

The driver cooperated with Utah agents to set up a controlled drug buy in Minnesota and other suspects who attempted to pick up the drugs Aug. 5 were arrested, he said.

"We made some recorded phone calls to the people in charge of having it delivered. Part of it was for Minneapolis, part of it was Hudson, Wisconsin, which is a little Main Street, small town with a bunch of houses in suburbia, right across the border," Root said. "You’ve got to do it fast, because if you wait too long, they know something is up."

A search warrant was executed at the home of "the guy responsible for the load," Root said.

"They’ve identified the guy out in California and I think they are going to pick him up," Root said. "He is the source of the supply."

Soon the marijuana harvest in California will be in full swing and officers are cracking down already on drug traffickers on Interstate 80.

"I-80 is a smoking hot corridor here lately and they are really putting a lot of emphasis on I-80," Root said. "We’ll scare them all up to I-90 or something."

Troopers seized about 59 pounds from a woman about two weeks ago in Tooele who said she was delivering the marijuana to Park City, Root said.

"They have worked I-80 on several different occasions and they’ve had good success with what they’ve worked so far in Summit County, Salt Lake County and Tooele County," said Cameron Roden, a spokesman for the Utah Highway Patrol.

The Park Record usually doesn’t print the name of suspects until formal charges are filed.


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