Posted: 2/17/2006 10:04:32 PM EDT
I wonder why they searched his vehicle with a drug-sniffing dog? I hope they weren't profiling him
MINNESOTA: Patrol nabs $1 million worth of meth in bust
Feb. 16, 2006
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota State Patrol made its largest methamphetamine bust ever last week during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 94, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion said Wednesday.
Two troopers and a drug-sniffing dog found 11.5 pounds of the illegal drug - with a street value of more than $1 million - hidden in the passenger air bag compartment of a car they stopped near Monticello, Minn.
The driver, Merced Bejar-Orta, now faces federal felony drug charges that could lead to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said at a news conference. Bejar-Orta made an initial court appearance Monday.
State Patrol Capt. Dave Graham said Bejar-Orta had a Washington state driver's license, but authorities have been unable to verify his identity. Graham said he may be an illegal immigrant.
The seizure isn't the biggest ever in the state, drug agents said. But the recovered meth was extremely pure, which gives it a higher street value and also means users don't need as much to get high, said Larry Bergsgaard, special agent in charge of the narcotics unit for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Tom Kelly, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Minneapolis-St. Paul district office, said the bust is significant for Minnesota, which isn't an epicenter of drug trafficking.
"We're kind of the tail end of the dragon here," he said.
Campion characterized it as a "major victory" in the battle against meth trafficking. He said 70 percent to 80 percent of the meth used in Minnesota comes from other places.
A state law restricting access to over-the-counter cold medicines used to make the drug has significantly curtailed homegrown meth labs since it took effect last year. In the meantime, authorities have shifted their attention to meth dealers who bring in large quantities from mega-labs outside the state.
"This gives investigators insight into what appears to be a significant trafficking operation," Campion said. "Now law enforcement has the opportunity to disrupt that."