Suspected heroin, cash concealed in car on interstate
Samuel Leon-Ruiz, 41, and Yahir Rosario Ruiz Cota, 22, were arrested Wednesday afternoon near mile marker 5 on Interstate 70 on suspicion of possession of 5.2 pounds of heroin and money laundering, according to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
A sheriff’s deputy stopped a Chevy Malibu with Nevada license plates about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon after the deputy noticed the car drifting across a center stripe in the westbound lanes of the interstate, according to an arrest affidavit. The driver, later identified as Leon-Ruiz, presented the deputy with a Mexican ID card with the name Alonso Olivas-Vazquez. The passenger identified himself as Ruiz Cota and also presented a Mexican ID card.
Leon-Ruiz told the deputy they were driving from Denver to Las Vegas after a 15-day visit with family. The deputy wrote in the affidavit he requested permission to search the vehicle after noticing an “overwhelming perfume type odor” coming from an air freshener and seeing the 2010 Malibu had 103,000 miles on it.
High mileage on young cars is sometimes associated with drug trafficking, according to the affidavit.
Both men consented to the search, where the deputy and another officer who had arrived at the scene found loose panels throughout the vehicle, evidence that the back seat had been removed numerous times, and loose floor carpeting. It also appeared the car’s exhaust had been lowered. Ruiz Cota and Leon-Ruiz consented to the deputy’s request to take the car to Mesa County Shops for a more intensive search.
At the shops, the car’s center console, carpet, back seat and front seats were removed. Deputies found a “metal bracket under the center console that was heavily tooled,” according to the affidavit. The bracket was removed and access to a concealed compartment became visible. The compartment contained two packages of suspected heroin weighing approximately 5.2 pounds and two packages of U.S. cash.
“The currency was not counted by officer’s (sic), per departmental policy, but it was a large amount into the ten’s (sic) of thousands,” according to the affidavit.
The Sheriff’s Office estimated the heroin has a wholesale value of $85,000 but would be worth about $2 million if distributed.
Later, Leon-Ruiz correctly identified himself and admitted he had a prior conviction for trafficking three pounds of cocaine in Arizona.