ST. GEORGE – Two California men were arrested early Saturday morning after a Utah Highway Patrol narcotics K-9 sniffed out 25 pounds of marijuana in their vehicle during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 in St. George.
Just before 2:30 a.m., a trooper initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle along northbound I-15 near milepost 9 for traffic violations, according to a probable cause statement filed by the Utah Highway Patrol in support of the arrests.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as 25-year-old Demesio Villa-Tapia, of Montclair, California. His passenger was identified as 29-year-old Abel Tapia-Palomera, of Anaheim, California.
While the trooper talked with the driver, another trooper deployed Titan, his K-9 counterpart, around the outside of the vehicle, according to the statement. The K-9 alerted to the presence of drugs inside the vehicle.
During a subsequent search of the vehicle, authorities located 24 individually wrapped packages of a “green leafy substance” which later tested positive for marijuana, the report stated.
Together, the marijuana packages weighed a total of 25 pounds, according to the report.
In Utah, one pound of marijuana is valued at anywhere from $1,000 for low-quality to upwards of $5,000 for very high-quality, according to Narcotics News. Thus, the estimated total value on the 25 pounds seized during Saturday’s stop is between $25,000 and $125,000, depending on its quality.
Both men were arrested and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Villa-Tapia was charged with third-degree felony drug possession with the intent to distribute and a class B misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia, along with two infractions for traffic violations.
Tapia-Palomera was charged with second-degree felony drug possession with the intent to distribute and class B misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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