A man Orange County deputies caught with 15 pounds of high-grade cocaine and more than three gallons of liquid codeine is in federal custody today. If convicted, the man could face 20 years to life in prison.
"I would like to say we are making an impact with this arrest today," said Orange County Chief Deputy John Tarver.
Henry Michael Jefferson, 27, of Jonesville, La., was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated possession of controlled substances and fleeing the police in a vehicle, a third-degree felony.
Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Joel Stinnet and Tracey Sorge with the office's special services division stopped a 2004 Ford pick up truck on Interstate 10 near mile marker 873 at 12:02 p.m. Wednesday. The truck had no license plates and no dealer's tags when it was stopped.
"The truck was purchased June 13 and had more than 26,000 miles on it," Tarver said.
During the interview, deputies became suspicious and asked for permission to search the truck Stinnet said. When the man refused, deputies called for a drug sniffing dog to be sent to the scene to detect drugs in the car so they could legally search it.
Before the canine unit arrived, the man got back in his truck and tried to escape custody by driving east on I-10 toward Louisiana. During the pursuit, the truck hit another car that was not involved in the stop, causing serious damage to both vehicles. The truck left I-10 at the 16th Street off ramp and was traveling down the feeder road when the engine experienced mechanical difficulties due to the damage caused to his truck during the accident.
He ran from the truck carrying a black duffle bag but was caught and arrested by deputies on the scene. Deputies found seven 1 kilo, or 2.2 pound, bricks of powder cocaine in the duffle bag and 24 one-pint bottles of commercially packaged liquid codeine in the truck.
The cocaine was wrapped in cellophane and blue painters masking tape, and the codeine was purple and unopened. Officers said it may have come directly from a factory or pharmacy. Tarver said it was impossible to tell exactly where the drugs came from, or where they were going but it was believed they were coming from Houston and headed east perhaps into Louisiana.
I-10 is a "pipeline" for drugs moving between major metropolitan areas and more than $600,000 worth of narcotics have been taken off the Interstate this year.
This seizure has a total street value of $350,000. Tarver said while 15 pounds of cocaine was not a record seizure for the office it was significant, and the three gallons of codeine seized likely was a record amount.
"Three gallons is a lot of codeine," Tarver said.
One rock of crack cocaine is about one half gram. There are 28 grams in an ounce and 16 ounces in a pound Stinnet said.
Essentially prescription cough syrup codeine is sometimes mixed with carbonated beverages and sipped like a soft drink by users. It is usually smuggled in soft drink or Gatorade containers because it is usually dyed bright colors like purple or red. Tarver said the codeine could have originated anywhere in the United States or Canada and could have been bought or stolen from a pharmacy or manufacturer.