A speeding stop west of Salina, KS during the weekend led to the seizure of 240 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $4.4 million, the Kansas Highway Patrol said.
The size of the seizure ranks it among the top 10 or 15 in patrol history, said Lt. Kirk Simone, who is based at the patrol's headquarters in Topeka.
Trooper Craig Davis, of Salina, made the stop on Interstate 70 about 6:25 a.m. Sunday. He said he became suspicious, asked to search the vehicle and was given permission. He said he found the cocaine in two duffel bags in the extended cab portion of the pickup truck. The bags, he said, were in plain view and not concealed.
Davis took custody of the two occupants, a 53-year-old woman and 21-year-old man from Albuquerque, N.M. The Saline County prosecutor's office said it was in the process of preparing charges, which it expected to file later on Monday.
Davis said it is expected the case will be turned over to federal prosecutors.
The trooper wouldn't say precisely how fast the truck was going, saying only, "Take my word for it, they were speeding."
Davis said that while you might expect people transporting illegal drugs to be especially careful about obeying traffic laws, arrests like the ones he made Sunday are pretty common.
"It's amazing how many drug traffickers commit traffic violations," he said. "It's unreal."
Davis also said it's not unusual for people to allow officers to search their vehicles without requiring them to obtain a warrant for them to do so.
"We get more refusals than we used to, but quite a few people consent to a search," he said. "People do it all the time. Some of them may figure they're going to get busted anyway."
The trooper said the two people were cooperative and "didn't really say a lot."
"It made my day, that's for sure," Davis said. "It didn't make theirs, but it made mine."
Simone directs the patrol's interdiction program in which troopers are trained to look for indications of drug or other violations when they make a traffic stop.
"It helps them read people a lot better," he said. "Just body mannerisms, how they are acting, what they say."
Simone said people tend to get nervous when they see a police vehicle behind them, and that can result in traffic violations like following too close, crossing the center line or exceeding the speed limit.
Simone said the patrol's largest cocaine seizure was one of 472 pounds in 1994, and the following year there was a 441-pound seizure and another of 367 pounds. The biggest seizure of marijuana was 3,384 pounds west of Wichita and the largest methamphetamine discovery came in 2002 when 69 pounds were seized near Junction City in 2002, which Simone said was the largest meth seizure in the country that year.