The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force seized 1,243 pound of marijuana Wednesday from the back of a semi-truck carrying produce on I-10 near Eloy.
A sheriff’s K-9 deputy on patrol along I-10 at milepost 206 noticed a semi truck abruptly change lanes when he saw the marked unit sitting in the median.
The deputy pulled into the westbound lanes behind the semi-truck, which continued to make erratic movements. The deputy observed the driver change lanes without a turn signal, cut off vehicles and slow down to 40 miles per hour on the interstate.
The deputy stopped the vehicle for the traffic violations. As the deputy approached the trailer of the semi-truck he immediately smelled marijuana. The driver, Norberto De La Vega, 59 of California, told the deputy he was returning to Los Angeles.
According to PCSO, he acted very nervous and was visibly shaking as he handed over his paperwork. This gave the deputy enough suspicion to retrieve his canine partner. The dog alerted immediately on the trailer and the deputy called for backup from the Narcotics Task Force.
The PCSO Narcotic Task Force entered the trailer and found 32 large cardboard vegetable bins full of squash. The cardboard bins had ventilation type holes that revealed duct-tape wrapped packages concealed underneath the squash.
As deputies continued to investigate and offload the trailer, a total of 1,243 pounds of marijuana was found hidden inside the cardboard bins. The marijuana has an estimated street value of nearly $925,000. De La Vega was placed under arrest and faces an array of drug-offense charges.After the evidence was secured and ownership of the load was declined by all parties, PSCO donated the squash to St. Mary’s Food Bank.
“The cartels from Mexico attempt to move their drugs by foot, car, truck and semi,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Thanks to our alert K-9 handler and his dog, this load was squashed. Our office will begin forfeiture proceedings on the semi-truck and trailer, which were used to transport the marijuana.”