ST. GEORGE – A Las Vegas man and a woman from Illinois were arrested Tuesday after Utah Highway Patrol troopers found two pounds of alleged marijuana in the rented car they were driving, and UHP officials say that is not unusual.
“I-15 is a major drug corridor,” UHP Sergeant Jake Hicks said. “I-15 runs from Mexico to Canada. You have San Diego, L.A., Las Vegas and drugs generally come from the south and then they go north and then they go east. And they come up I-15.”
At approximately 1:30 p.m. a UHP trooper saw a silver Nissan Rogue with Nevada license plates following another vehicle too closely on northbound Interstate 15 near milepost 3, according to a probable cause statement filed in support of the arrests.
The officer stopped the Nissan, which was driven by Essence Belmont, 20, of Chicago, Illinois. Xarius Jamal Rashad Hampton-McKinney, 22, was the only passenger.
When the officer approached the vehicle, he smelled “a strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle,” the report stated.
On further investigation, it was found that the car had been rented by Belmont’s brother. Belmont told officers that they were on their way from Las Vegas to Chicago.
During a search of the vehicle, officers found two bags of alleged marijuana totaling approximately two pounds between the rear seat and the spare tire compartment. The bags were double heat-sealed, the report stated.
Hampton-McKinney and Belmont were booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Hampton-McKinney remains in custody and is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday.
Belmont is also charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. She was released on $5,680 bond and is scheduled to appear in court March 14.
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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