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Friday, June 04, 2004

The Big Spring Herald-Felon Mexican National Previously Deported Busted with 100 Pounds of Marijuana

The Big Spring Herald

By THOMAS JENKINS Staff Writer


A Mexican national is cooling his heels in the Martin County Jail after area law enforcement discovered approximately 100 pounds of marijuana hidden in the tires of the truck he was driving.



Jose Javier Flores Uvalde, 26, was arrested early Thursday morning by Stanton police, shortly after having mechanical problems with his vehicle, just inside the Howard County line on Interstate Highway 20.



"It started at about 3 a.m. for us," said Howard County Chief Deputy Gary Pritchett. "We got a call from Stanton and they had picked up someone in Stanton who claimed he was having car trouble on the interstate. His pickup was broken down just west of Big Spring.



"They ran this person through the system and he was a convicted felon that had been deported. One thing led to another and they believed there might be drugs in the vehicle. We went out and found the vehicle and requested a canine unit."



Once the drug-detecting canine was on the scene, Pritchett said it wasn't hard to figure there were drugs in the vehicle, or where they were located.



"The canine from DPS immediately hit on the tires of the vehicle," explained Pritchett. "We impounded the vehicle after the driver gave us permission to search it. We took the tires off and inside we found two half-circular metal containers on each wheel that marijuana was packaged inside.



"We found about 13 individually wrapped packages of marijuana, weighing about one pound each, in each of the eight containers. Each package was wedge shaped to conform to the angle of the container. So we took approximately 100 pounds of marijuana out of all four tires."



Pritchett said the drug bust was the largest of the year for Howard County thus far, with DPS estimating the street value of the marijuana at approximately $15,500.



"It was a team effort between the different agencies and the cooperation between the DPS Canine Unit, Stanton Police Department and our office was excellent," he said.



The vehicle was registered in Mexico, according to Pritchett, and was travelling east from El Paso when the driver was taken into custody. The owners of the truck have not been identified at this time.



Pritchett said the work that went into hiding the marijuana in the truck's wheel's is testament to how far drug smugglers will go to avoid the law.



"Whoever put this together has definitely done it before," Pritchett said. "On the wheels they welded it so it wouldn't show through and they put counterweights on the inside of the wheel so they wouldn't have a bunch of weights on the outside. They actually balanced the wheel before they put the tire on it."



Once the marijuana and Uvalde were in custody, Pritchett said it was basically a matter of turning the matter over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.



"We contacted the feds this morning after everything happened," said Pritchett. "This guy had already been convicted of a felony and had been deported back to Mexico, so he wasn't supposed to be in the United States. His felony conviction was for fraud, but at this time we're still not sure what was involved in the conviction. So we went ahead and got Immigration involved."

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