8 pounds of meth seized on I-90
A traffic stop on I-90 near Columbus earlier this week netted eight pounds of methamphetamine and an odd story about a trip to see Yogi the Bear.
Manuel Paz Sanchez Jr., 31, was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 12, after the meth was allegedly found in the spare tire in the trunk of his rental car.
On Dec. 14, Sanchez appeared before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan on one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He is being held without bond at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
According to documents filed in federal court, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped a silver passenger car with a California license plate in the eastbound lane of I-90 near mile marker 407. The stop was made because the car was following the car in front of it too closely.
The car had been rented in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 9, with it scheduled to be returned on Dec. 11 to the same location. When the trooper asked Sanchez where he was coming from, Sanchez said he was coming from Idaho, where he had visited family. Sanchez also said that his wife had found a cheaper flight out of Bismark, N. D., so he rented a car to drive to Bismarck, according to federal court documents. The trooper found this explanation to be suspicious.
During the conversation with the trooper, Sanchez couldn’t remember the name of the town in Idaho he said he was coming from and often forgot the name of the town he was allegedly driving to.
Sanchez told a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force officer on scene that he was coming from Yellowstone National Park where he was visiting Yogi the Bear.
The trooper asked Sanchez if there were any drugs, firearms or other illegal items in the car, to which Sanchez responded no. Sanchez gave verbal and written permission for law enforcement to search the car.
During that search, lawmen found a tire repair kit that had been used. The spare tire was also in the trunk. The officers removed the spare tire from the trunk and dropped it on the ground to see if it would bounce normally, which it did not, according to court documents.
The tire was then taken to a Columbus tire shop, where it was removed from the rim. Inside were six packages of vacuum-sealed plastic, which contained methamphetamine. The meth was taken to the DEA office in Billings, where it was determined to amount to approximately eight pounds.