900 pounds of pot seized
July 23, 2005 - azdailysun.com
The tractor trailer looked like any of the 500 others on Interstate 40 that each hour pass by the construction zone near the Butler Avenue exit. Except for one thing: The trailer had its air vents covered.
That one little detail led to the discovery Friday morning of about 900 pounds of marijuana with a street value of at least $1.2 million.
The inattention to the little details is what always gets drug runners caught, say officials with the Flagstaff office of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Friday's seizure was the fourth in two days -- at a time when marijuana shipments should be on the decline.
DPS Sgt. Rod Wigman said the bust occurred at about 3:45 a.m. A K-9 unit officer stopped the eastbound semi for driving 66 mph in the 55 mph construction zone near the Butler Avenue exit.
The officer noticed that the air vents on the trailer had been covered with what appeared to be fresh caulking and new rivets, Wigman said. And when the officer questioned the driver and the passenger, they gave conflicting accounts of where they were going and who they were.
"They didn't know each other's names," Wigman said.
The officer received consent from the driver to search the trailer. The officer walked up to the front of the trailer, grabbed the wood paneling and pulled. The wood, adhered to a metal back by magnets, came free and revealed a hidden compartment about a foot deep that ran the entire width and height of the front of the trailer.
The compartment was stuffed with marijuana.
"Actually, this is not a new way (to hide marijuana)," Wigman said. "But this particular officer was trained to be attentive."
It's the attention to the little details that result in drug seizures, Wigman added. And it is inattention to the little details on behalf of the drug runners that lead to them getting caught -- like knowing each other's names.
As to the fact that the truck was speeding through a construction zone, Wigman said, "It always amazes us that they give us any reason to stop them at all, but they do."
So far, DPS detectives have learned that the driver had flown into Phoenix Thursday.
"They loaded in Phoenix," Wigman said, adding that the marijuana was on its way to Atlanta.
Traditionally, summer months are slow for marijuana seizures, Wigman said. The high time for marijuana seizures, which coincides with the drug's harvest season, runs between September and March.
But some of the marijuana is warehoused. And when demand increases and the supply diminishes in the summer months, the warehoused marijuana is brought onto the market at much higher prices, Wigman said.
The driver, Daniel M. Palmer, 36, Ellenwood, Ga., and the passenger, Larry D. Coleman, 48, Atlanta, were booked into the Coconino County Detention Facility on charges of possession and transportation of marijuana for sale.
Neither man is willing to cooperate with investigators, Wigman said. DPS detectives have already contacted Atlanta authorities, and the case is under investigation.
According to information released by the Metro anti-narcotics task force in Flagstaff, marijuana sells in the city for $20 to $25 a quarter ounce. That would put the value of Friday's seizure at $1.15 to $1.44 million.
The DPS northern division, which patrols the highways around Flagstaff, seized more than 9,000 pounds of marijuana in 2004.
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