Two San Luis, Ariz., men have been arrested in the Gila Bend area for allegedly smuggling almost $4 million worth of methamphetamine and white heroin.
Miguel Bustamante, 33, was driving a late model Ford F-150 on State Route 85 near Gila Bend when he was pulled over by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer the afternoon of May 6. Emmanuel Roque, 21, was a passenger in the vehicle.
During the traffic stop, the officer became suspicious of criminal activity.
“Once they make the stop, however the driver acts, or the passenger, can actually intensify that suspicion,” explained DPS Media Relations Coordinator Bart Graves during a phone interview.
As a precaution, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection narcotics canine officer responded to the scene and provided assistance.
Following a subsequent search of the pickup, officers discovered a total of 217 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $3,854,000 and four-pounds of white heroin within the vehicle.
“This drug seizure is exemplary of the cooperation that exists between DPS and our federal partners in U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southern border region,” said Robert Halliday, DPS director.
The amount of meth seized during this one traffic stop is more than what DPS generally seizes statewide in an entire year, Halliday said, which is typically less than 200 pounds.
Both Bustamante and Roque were arrested and booked into the Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail on felony drug charges including transportation of narcotics for sale, transportation of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of narcotics for sale and possession of a dangerous drug for sale.
“This is extremely significant,” Graves said. “By getting this amount of meth, this horrible drug off the streets, it will make communities safer, and that is our aim.”
At this point in the investigation, it is unclear if the drugs were smuggled through the Yuma area on their way to Gila Bend, Graves stated.
“We are looking into that right now. I know they have interviewed them but I don’t have that information at this point.”
Such a seizure provides a serious financial blow to the drug cartel bank rolling the operation, Graves said.
“They know pretty quickly when their cache has been seized.”
In addition to monitoring traffic safety issues, DPS remains vigilant against drug smugglers using Arizona highways to deliver illicit goods.
“Some of these areas are heavily traveled by folks trying to smuggle drugs into the Phoenix area or Los Angeles to make a profit,” Graves said. “Our mission is to take this off the highways. Interdiction is a big emphasis of DPS statewide. We look for couriers being paid by drug cartels (or) folks just peddling this on their own. We are looking for them actively.”