A Beverly Hills luxury real estate agent caught carting more than 50 pounds of marijuana through Mesa County on Wednesday is facing a level one drug felony and eight or more years in prison if convicted, according to an arrest affidavit.
A Colorado State Patrol trooper who pulled over 46-year-old Jonas Heller on Interstate 70 on a traffic violation Wednesday could smell the overwhelming odor of marijuana while walking up to the vehicle, according to an arrest affidavit.
Heller was arrested on suspicion of drug distribution and driving in the left lane after the trooper found about 52 pounds of marijuana in two suitcases in the backseat, according to an arrest affidavit.
Heller said he was traveling in his rental car from California to Aspen, then planned to go to Denver.
Heller appeared nervous and his hands were shaking when the trooper asked for his license, according to an arrest report. The trooper noted in the report that the license was in a small bag that contained a large amount of cash bound by a rubber band, and there were two cellphones in the vehicle.
The trooper said he told Heller he would search the vehicle because it smelled strongly of marijuana, and asked Heller if he would show him the marijuana.
Heller agreed and said he "just had a little bit" and showed the trooper a small vacuum-packed bag of marijuana that is consistent with personal use. The trooper then searched the vehicle and located two large suitcases covered with jackets in the backseat.
Heller gave the trooper the combinations to open the bags, where the officer found the drugs.
Heller appeared Thursday in Mesa County Court accompanied by Public Defender Steve Colvin. Chief Deputy District Attorney David Waite asked that Heller be held on a $50,000 cash-only bond, noting his lack of local ties and the mandatory prison sentence he's facing if convicted of the high-level drug felony. Waite said that 52 pounds of marijuana has a possible street value of $500,000.
Colvin said nothing in Heller's arrest affidavit indicates that the estimated 52 pounds is a "net weight," implying the number could include plastic package, and called Waite's statement about the possible value "at best speculation."
Colvin said that Heller works in real estate and family resources, that he has "virtually no criminal history," and that he has the means to travel back and forth from California for court dates.
County Judge Michael Grattan issued Heller a $50,000 cash or surety bond, and ordered him to return to district court at 8 a.m. Jan. 4.