Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Routine Colorado traffic stop turns up $10 million in cocaine

DENVER (Reuters) - A routine Colorado traffic stop led to the discovery of 220 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $10 million in the rental car of a California couple, police said on Monday.

Mark Bailey and Lisa Calderon, both of Sylmar, California, were arrested on Sunday in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo on suspicion of cocaine possession, Pueblo Deputy Police Chief Andrew McLachlan said.

"This is definitely the largest cocaine seizure in our department's history," McLachlan told Reuters.

McLachlan said a patrol officer was tipped off by an off-duty detective to a car making an illegal lane change on Interstate 25, about 115 miles south of Denver.

The north-south highway has long been a drug-smuggling corridor, he said. When the officer pulled over the rented Chevrolet Malibu, he discovered that Bailey's California driver's license had been revoked.

Bailey, 37, told the officer he owned an auto body shop in California, and was en route to Iowa to look at a 1955 Chevy, police said.

The officer became suspicious because when Calderon, 35, was questioned she appeared nervous. She said the pair were going to visit her brother in Iowa but couldn't say where, police said.

When the officer noticed that the back of the car appeared to be weighed down, he summoned a drug-sniffing dog and its handler to the scene. The dog, name Raleigh, "alerted on the rear of the Chevy," McLachlan said.

A search of the trunk uncovered four black duffel bags stuffed with bricks of cocaine, and the pair was arrested, he said.

Bailey was also cited for driving with a suspended license, and no proof of insurance.

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