Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies discovered 319 pounds of marijuana worth $159,500 in two abandoned vehicles about 20 miles south of Maricopa Saturday night.

A deputy patrolling I-8 near Vekol Valley around 10 p.m. spotted a white Ford Crown Victoria stuck in loose dirt near the south shoulder of the road, according to Sheriff’s department spokesman Tim Gaffney.

When the deputy approached the vehicle he found the trunk of the car partially open and the rear windows down, Gaffney said.

Approximately 20 feet behind the Crown Victoria was a tan Ford Taurus that had crashed into a barbed wire fence.

Both vehicles were running when the deputy discovered them, but all the occupants had fled the vicinity. In a search of the vehicles, 14 bundles of marijuana were discovered.

The Crown Victoria was outfitted to look like a law enforcement vehicle with red and blue strobe lights, orange and white strobe lights, a siren, a spotlight and a front push bar.

Deputies also discovered a black ski mask and black hooded sweatshirt next to the driver’s seat in the Crown Victoria.

Gaffney said it is believed the driver of the Crown Victoria attempted a false traffic stop on the Taurus, causing the driver of the Taurus to veer off the road and hit the fence before fleeing the car.

Deputies believe the occupants of the Crown Victoria then began to transfer the marijuana to their vehicle before also fleeing the scene as police approached.

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