28,000 pounds of marijuana seized near Temecula
10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By SARAH BURGE
Riverside County sheriff's deputies seized more than 28,000 pounds of marijuana Wednesday after they pulled over a big rig near Temecula in what was described as a routine traffic stop on the freeway, authorities said.
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said deputies stopped the 18-wheeler about 9 a.m. for making an illegal lane change on northbound Interstate 15 near the San Diego County Line and the U.S. Border Patrol station.
It was unclear why sheriff's deputies were making a traffic stop on the freeway in the unincorporated area south of Temecula or what prompted them to inspect the truck after stopping it. But when they looked inside the trailer, deputies discovered thousands of pounds of barely concealed marijuana in dozens of numbered cardboard bins.
The illegal haul was wrapped in 27-pound blocks, officials say.
The pot was wrapped in 27-pound blocks, Gutierrez said.
"This big rig was stuffed -- filled from front to back," he said.
By late afternoon, law enforcement officers were still tallying the multimillion-dollar haul at an undisclosed location, but Gutierrez said it is believed to be the single largest marijuana seizure ever made by the Sheriff's Department.
U.S. Border Patrol officials have reported seizures of marijuana from big rigs, especially on desert routes farther inland. But often the marijuana is mixed in with other items. In this truck, no such efforts to mask the pot were made.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has assumed the investigation and federal drug charges are expected to be filed against the truck driver.
Gutierrez referred questions about the driver to DEA officials who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.