Man stopped in Summit County with thousands of THC pen cartridges and 204 pounds of pot, police say
October 11, 2018
More than 200 pounds of marijuana, thousands of vape pen cartridges containing THC and 400 jars containing marijuana concentrates were found during a traffic stop Monday on Interstate 80 in Summit County, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Utah.
The items were found in several cardboard boxes and toolboxes in the back of a van being driven by James Martin Burns, of Providence, Rhode Island, according to court documents. Prosecutors say each of the 7,000 cartridges were wrapped in plastic and bundled together in the boxes, along with 1,400 vape pens containing suspected THC. Eight hundred cigars containing a drug presumed to be hashish, a more concentrated form of marijuana, were also found, along with 204 packages containing marijuana in locked toolboxes that each weighed approximately one pound.
Burns, 52, was charged in U.S. District Court on Wednesday with one count of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million upon conviction, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City. He was in custody as of Thursday.
Court documents state a Utah Highway Patrol trooper stopped Burns' white GMC Savana van Monday on Interstate 80 for an equipment violation. Prosecutors allege Burns told the trooper he had borrowed the vehicle to help move a friend's belongings to Rhode Island.
The trooper deployed a K-9 unit while waiting for a records check. Documents state Burns told the trooper he would "find something" in the vehicle.
Authorities seized the cardboard boxes and obtained a warrant to search the four locked toolboxes, which yielded the packages of marijuana, court documents state.
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The Criminal Interdiction Team and agents with the State Bureau of Investigation are assisting in the investigation.
Burns was scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.
John Huber, U.S. attorney for Utah, said in a statement that states with legalized marijuana have become "operating bases for criminal organizations." He said law enforcement officers are forced to put their safety on the line to intercept drug trafficking organizations as they travel through Utah.
"In the most common pattern, offenders drive load after load of marijuana products east from the west coast, and load after load of dirty cash back west," he stated. "Utah is living up to its nickname — the crossroads of the west — thanks to our neighbor states who have created, even if unintentionally, safe havens for drug trafficking criminal organizations. We drag down our communities and individuals when we normalize and facilitate drug use. From my perspective, other states have made decisions that negatively impact Utah's public safety."
Interstate 80 is recognized as a drug trafficking thoroughfare by local agencies, which often work with federal partners to reduce the criminal activity. Last week, deputies with the Summit County Sheriff's Office seized 28 pounds of pot and arrested two women under suspicion of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.