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Friday, July 02, 2004

thedesertsun.com | Police seize 2,000-plus pounds of marijuana

thedesertsun.com | Police seize 2,000-plus pounds of marijuana

COACHELLA -- Six men and one juvenile were detained Thursday after deputies discovered more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana in a Coachella trailer.

Jaime Rivera Beltran, 50, Jose Cesar Beltran, 21, Ramon Felix Rivera, 31, Valentine Felix Zazueta, 30, Jose Felix Beltran, 42, Ruperto Valdez Leon, 25, and a 17-year-old boy were waiting to be booked late Thursday night on suspicion of a variety of charges including transportation, possession with intent to sell and other special enhancements, said Sgt. Sal Pina of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Pina said all of the men are believed to be from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, and deputies believe the marijuana was brought in from Mexico as well.

Deputies working on another, unrelated investigation stumbled onto the cache of drugs at about 3:30 p.m. in the 50-300 block of Polk Street.

Pina said the deputies could smell the marijuana when they knocked on the door and saw the wrapped bricks when the men inside pulled back the drapes to see who was there.

Investigators were still photographing and collecting evidence at the trailer late into the night.

By 9:30 p.m. one room had been emptied of 510 pounds of marijuana -- with a street value of about $408,000-- and there were still two rooms left.

An exact weight on the confiscated evidence was not yet available late Thursday, but Pina said he believed the total would end up exceeding 2,000 pounds -- making it worth an estimated $2 million on the street.

A neighboring trailer was also searched but it was empty, Pina said.

Investigators believe the operation had been going on for at least a month. The drugs had been repackaged into kilo-sized bricks and treated with carpet freshener before being wrapped in cellophane.

Pina said traffickers believe the carpet freshener will mask the scent of the marijuana from drug dogs.

Three cars, one of which was registered out of Baja, were also seized at the scene. They will be searched for hidden compartments to determine if that is how the marijuana was brought into the country, Pina said.

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