California man caught with 8 pounds of meth and Yogi Bear story on I-90 gets 15-year prison term

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, October 31, 2019
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            Manuel Paz Sanchez has been in jail since his December 2017 arrest in Stillwater County. He will now be taken to a federal prison.

A California motorist who claimed to have been in Yellowstone National Park visiting Yogi Bear when he was caught with eight pounds of methamphetamine on I-90 was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison last week.

Manuel Paz Sanchez, 32, was also ordered to complete a 500-hour residential drug program in prison, plus, spend five years on supervised release upon his release from custody.

The sentence was handed down last Friday by federal U.S. District Judge Susan Watters following Sanchez pleading guilty to one felony count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. Sanchez went through three defense attorneys before pleading guilty, according to the federal docket report.

He has been in custody since his December 2017 arrest in Stillwater County.

THE CASE

Sanchez was arrested when an I-90 traffic stop led to the discovery of methamphetamine in the spare tire in the trunk of his rental car, according to court documents. Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Barry Kilpela stopped Sanchez for following too closely to the car in front of him.

The car had been rented in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2017, with it scheduled to be returned on Dec. 11, 2017, to the same location. Sanchez told lawmen he was coming from Idaho, where he had visited family.

Sanchez also said that his wife had found a cheaper flight out of Bismarck, N. D., so he rented a car to drive to Bismarck, according to court documents.

Trooper Kilpela found this explanation to be suspicious.

Also raising the suspicion of the trooper was that fact that 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, according to court documents.

Sanchez also told another police officer on scene that he was coming from Yellowstone National Park where he was visiting Yogi Bear.

During a search of the car, lawmen 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 Billings, where it was determined to amount to approximately eight pounds.

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