BILLINGS – A car speeding through a construction zone in south-central Montana led to a traffic stop and “probably the biggest ever” heroin bust in the state, a Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman said.
Two Mexican citizens who are in the country illegally are charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin after 6.7 pounds of the drug was found in the engine compartment of their car on April 14, the Billings Gazette reported Wednesday. The DEA says the street value is between $600,000 and $700,000.
“That seizure would be significant in Montana or Colorado or Wyoming or in the region,” said DEA spokesman Mike Turner of Denver. “That’s a lot of heroin.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby ruled Tuesday that there was probable cause to proceed with charges against Javier Gonzalez–Martinez, 35, and Julio Cesar Zurita-Villanueva, 20.
DEA Special Agent Diane Jenkins testified Tuesday that law enforcement officers found the heroin in six packages duct-taped in the engine compartment of the vehicle. A Montana Highway Patrol officer had stopped the vehicle for traveling 53 mph in a 45 mph construction zone, she said.
An immigration official determined both men are in the country illegally.
Jenkins said MHP officers became suspicious when the men gave inconsistent stories. They said they were driving to Seattle from New York for construction jobs, but were vague about the jobs and had no luggage or other clothes.
In addition to the drugs, officers found four cell phones, phone cards, an address book and a drug ledger.
Gonzalez-Martinez said he was paid $5,000 to drive from New York to Seattle and that he knew about the packages, but didn’t know they contained heroin, Jenkins said. Zurita-Villanueva told the agents he didn’t know about the packages or he wouldn’t have consented to a search of the vehicle.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the suspects had representation.
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