An Arizona man is facing felony drug charges after Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers seized 743 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $1,686,610 following a traffic stop in Preble County.
Troopers stopped a 2011 Ford F150 pickup, with fictitious U.S. Government registration, for an improper lane change violation on Interstate 70, near milepost 10, at 11:18 a.m. Thursday. Troopers observed criminal indicators and a Patrol drug-sniffing canine alerted to the vehicle. A probable cause search of the vehicle revealed 36 vacuum sealed and shrink wrapped bundles of marijuana, weighing approximately 743 pounds concealed in the cargo area of the van.
The driver, Isaac Chavez, 37, of Tuscan, Ariz., was incarcerated in the Preble County Jail and charged with possession of marijuana, a second-degree felony, possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony, and fictitious registration, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, he could face up to 9 years in prison and up to a $12,500 fine.
This was the second-largest marijuana seizure of 2012. In March troopers seized 2,500 pounds of marijuana on Interstate 70 in Madison County.
Drug seizures overall have significantly increased this year compared with the record-setting achievements of 2011. Through October 2012, state troopers seized 151 percent more marijuana and 295 percent more heroin than in 2011.
In an unrelated traffic-related incident, a Columbus man is facing felony drug charges after troopers recovered 25 marijuana plants and an electric meter, used for marijuana cultivation, after they were thrown from a vehicle on Interstate 475 in Wood County.
An officer from Perrysburg Township Police Department requested assistance from the Patrol's Criminal Patrol Unit after the driver of a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe was acting suspiciously and trying to evade the officer on Interstate 75 in Wood County. Troopers responded to the area and two separate witnesses observed an occupant of the suspect vehicle throw a large trash bag out of the window on Interstate 475, near milepost 2. Troopers located the bag along the interstate and found it to contain the marijuana plants and electric meter.
Troopers then observed the suspect vehicle on Eckel Junction Road near State Route 25 and initiated a traffic stop.
The driver, Craig E. Sheppard, 26, admitted to the ownership of the contraband and that he had just purchased it in Michigan and was en route to Columbus. He was incarcerated in the Wood County Jail and charged with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; trafficking in marijuana and possession of criminal tools, both fifth-degree felonies.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.