Comments Off on Meth seized during routine stop on I-20 worth more than $1M

In his years of ferreting out illegal narcotics being transported on I-20, Chris Picou has found that illicit substances travel east and drug money travels west.

That is believed to have been the plan early Monday, when a Hinds County sheriff’s deputy arrested a Texas man traveling on I-20 East in what is believed to be the department’s largest crystal methamphetamine bust.

The catch: About 10 kilos, or 22 pounds, with a street value of more than $1 million.

Picou said deputies are investigating exactly where Alberto Moralles Alejandre, 23, of Dallas was heading. Picou is the department’s chief deputy and has worked in drug interdiction at Richland Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

Marshall Fisher, head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, believes the destination may have been Atlanta.

“If I were guessing, that dope was going to be stashed in Atlanta,” Fisher said. “It’s a big hub for the Mexican drug trafficking organization. It’s a major East Coast hub.”

Those drugs often make their way back to the Jackson metro area, Picou said.

“Although drugs may come through here and go through Birmingham or Atlanta, this tells us that a good portion of our illegal drugs here are coming from Birmingham and Atlanta as well,” Picou said.

“Cartels use specific points to ship drugs, then distribute them from there,” he said. “It’s like a shipping company. You may ship something to Jackson, but it might go through Memphis on the way. And on numerous occasions, we’ve had drugs coming back west to Jackson.”

Alejandre, also known as Alberto Santibanes, was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute after a deputy stopped him for a “routine traffic violation” at about 12:45 a.m. Monday.

After the deputy saw indicators that drugs were on board, Wanese, a Dutch shepherd drug dog, was brought to the scene. Wanese “alerted to the odor of a controlled substance in the vehicle,” Picou said.

Alejandre’s Volkswagen Jetta was taken to a local body shop. Discovered in a hidden compartment on a floorboard was the crystal meth.

Alejandre was traveling with his girlfriend, their baby and the girlfriend’s parents, Picou said. Because the investigation showed those family members were unaware of the drugs, Picou said, they weren’t charged.

Alejandre, he said, “took ownership of the meth.” His bond hadn’t been set late Tuesday.

“What’s unique about this is that what we confiscated is known as ‘ice,’ ” Picou said. “It’s methamphetamine in its purest form.”

Fisher said the La Familia drug cartel in Mexico is likely responsible.

“Their main product is methamphetamine,” Fisher said. “I’m sure this guy (Alejandre) is obviously a lower-level transporter. The kingpins aren’t driving this stuff down the road.”

Fisher said his agency several years ago worked a large drug operation in Hinds County as part of a wiretapping case. “We seized 25 to 27 pounds of meth,” he said.

The Monday seizure, Fisher said, is fairly unusual when it comes to drug interdiction on interstates. “It was a good job by the guys working the interdiction,” he said.

The state’s law officers combat “millions of dollars annually and thousands of pounds annually” being transported on not just I-20, but I-55, I-59 and other major roadways, Fisher said.

“Because of the corridors being east and west, and I-10 on the Coast, illegal drugs are moving through on a daily basis,” state Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said.

Troopers in March arrested three Austin, Texas, men traveling east on I-20 in Warren County, confiscating more than 20 pounds of crystal meth, Strain said.

The confiscated Jetta will go through forfeiture procedures, either being used by the department or sold at auction, Picou said. If it’s auctioned, he said, the compartment will first be destroyed.

“There are organized groups that do nothing but make those hidden compartments,” Fisher said. “That’s a whole other enterprise.”

Although sheriff’s deputies believe those traveling with Alejandre were indeed his family members, drug runners often “rent” families to travel with them, Picou said.

“They try to make it look like a family outing,” he said.

Mississippians need to know that even though a 2010 state law curbed the operation of methamphetamine labs in the state by restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, it doesn’t impact huge labs operating in Mexico and other states, Fisher said.

“The Mexican cartels are going to do what they’re going to do,” he said.

“If I were guessing, that dope was going  to be stashed in Atlanta. It’s a  big hub for the Mexican drug trafficking organization.  It’s a major East Coast hub.”

– Marshall Fisher,  head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.


Comments are closed.