Central Valley

I-5 traffic stops yield over $1 million in drugs

Three routine traffic stops on Interstate 5 have led to the arrests of three motorists and the seizure of more than $1 million in drugs -- including one of the largest seizures of Ecstasy in the central San Joaquin Valley.

In all, 63,000 pills of Ecstasy, 12 kilograms of cocaine and 10 pounds of methamphetamines were confiscated during the traffic stops, which took place this month, said Sgt. Todd Spino of the California Highway Patrol.

Ecstasy cost $10 per pill, making the value of the seizure $630,000, said Ben Buford, a senior special agent with the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

The street value of the 12 kilograms of cocaine is $550,000, and the 10 pounds of crystal methamphetamines is worth $180,000, Buford said.

"This is the type of stuff that is sold to school kids and ruins lives," Spino said Wednesday at a new conference at the bureau's office in Fresno.

Drug-sniffing CHP dogs played a key role in the drug busts, Spino said.

The first traffic stop occurred Oct. 1 on I-5 north of Utica Avenue in Kings County. A 39-year-old Santa Barbara man was arrested after he was pulled over for a registration violation, Spino said. Ten pounds of methamphetamines were found in a hidden compartment in the vehicle, Spino said.

On Sunday, the CHP pulled over a speeding motorist in the same Kings County location. Twelve kilograms of cocaine were found in a duffle bag in the car, Spino said. A 55-year-old Long Beach woman was arrested.

Two days later, a 23-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested after he was pulled over on I-5 north of Jayne Avenue in Fresno County for having tinted windows, Spino said. Forty-one pounds of Ecstasy pills were found in a duffle bag in the vehicle, Spino said.

Buford said the seizure of Ecstasy was notable because the pills were made to attract young buyers. The pills came in shades of pink, yellow, green and purple. Logos of the New York Yankees, Chicago Bulls, Batman and Rolex were stamped on the pills, he said.

"These drugs came from a sophisticated operation," Buford said, noting that the Ecstasy likely was made in Asia and smuggled into the United States.

"This is the biggest seizure I have ever seen," said Buford, a 21-year bureau veteran.