UPDATED: $1.5 million in cocaine seized at I-40 rest stop in Jefferson Co.

By: Brian Gregory Email
By: Brian Gregory Email

Jefferson County (WVLT) -- A routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 takes $1.5 million in cocaine off our streets.

Two california men are in federal custody in Blount County.

The highway patrol says 46-year-old Mario Melgor and 40-year-old Jose Alberto Aguirre were on their way from California to New York when they were pulled over.

Officers say they found 63-kilos, or over 100 pounds of powder cocaine inside the truck.

Volunteer TV's Court Reporter Rob Pratt has new details.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is always keeping an eye out for people who may be using highways to traffic drugs.

But in this case, even veteran law enforcement officers were surprised by just how much they found.

State Troopers say this truck was doing 85 on I-40 when they pulled it over.

They discovered quickly that fruit and vegetables were not the only cargo.

Lieutenant Mike Higgs says, "In the fourth pallet of cargo, they found 23 kilos of what appeared to be powdered cocaine."

And there was more where that came from.

The truck contained 63 kilos in all.

Lieutenant Higgs says, "This is the largest single even seizure that the Highway Patrol has done in my 24 years here."

It started out like many other traffic stops, an 18-wheeler rolling down the hill at high speed.

But when Trooper Mark Self approached the truck at the exit 419 rest stop, he noticed that the co-drivers seemed nervous.
A check of the logbook revealed an eleven hour layover in Arizona.

That's not typical for two drivers hauling fresh produce from California to New York.

When the men gave the Highway Patrol permission to search the truck, the THP called the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

Deputy Steve Arnold and his K-9 partner sniffed out the problem.

Even one of these bricks would have been a huge find, but officers say 63 kilos is evidence of a larger war that they are always fighting.

Lieutenant Higgs says, "Drugs entering the country illegally from the south and southwest, entering through parts of the west. It's a major pipeline, I-40 is."

Lieutenant Higgs says these drugs would have been worth 1.5 million dollars on the street.

Exactly whose streets is not clear, "It could have been scheduled to have several deliveries between Jefferson County and Bronx New York."

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency is handling the investigation now.

No word yet on exactly what charges the two men will face, but with more than a hundred pounds of cocaine, a conviction would likely lead to several decades in federal prison.

PREVIOUS STORY:

DANDRIDGE, Tenn (WVLT) Sixty three kilograms of cocaine worth $1.5 million was seized in a drug bust along I-40 in Jefferson County, Tennessee on Monday.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol , Trooper Mark Self, stopped a tractor trailer for driving 85 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone on Interstate 40 eastbound at the rest area at mile marker 419.

The driver told Tpr. Self he was hauling produce from California to the Bronx, but a quick check of the log book by Trooper Self revealed the driver was allegedly in violation of a driving time limt.

A routine warrant check revealed the driver had prior drug arrests and had been deported to Mexico in 1998. Although the driver said there were no drugs in the big rig, during a search, a police dog hit on drugs in the trailer.

Inside, Jefferson County Sheriff County David Davenport says deputies found the huge stash of cocaine mixed in with produce.

“This is another example of a Trooper looking beyond the traffic stop and citation to uncover larger criminal activity,” said Colonel Mike Walker. “It’s also another example of local, state and federal law enforcement working together to get large quantities of illegal drugs and criminals of our highways.”

The two co-drivers of the tractor trailer, Jose Alberto Aguirre, 40, of Bakersville, California, and Mario Melgar, 46, of Marino Valley, California, are in custody and will be charged by federal authorities, according to Davenport.

Volunteer TV News has a crew in Jefferson County. Stay connected to Volunteer TV News and volunteertv.com for continued coverage of this developing news story.


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