Driver arrested after traffic stop in Iron County yields 30 pounds of meth hidden in vehicle’s gas tank

File photo of a Utah Highway Patrol vehicle, Parowan, Utah, May 24, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Utah Highway Patrol troopers arrested a suspected drug trafficker after finding 30 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside the gas tank of the car he was driving.

Following a traffic stop Saturday evening on Interstate 15 several miles north of Parowan, Javier Molina Lopez, 43, was arrested and booked into Iron County Jail on drug possession and distribution charges.

According to a probable cause statement filed in support of his arrest, Lopez was driving a gray Volkswagen Jetta on northbound I-15 near mile marker 88 shortly before 9:30 p.m. when a trooper pulled him over for following a semitractor-trailer too closely.

“I approached the vehicle on the right side and immediately smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle,” the arresting trooper wrote in the affidavit.

“During my conversation with Lopez, he admitted that he knew he was too close to the semi,” the arresting trooper wrote. “He also admitted that there was probably a marijuana container still in the vehicle and that he didn’t have a medical marijuana card.”

After filling out the citation, the trooper, with the assistance of another UHP trooper, then performed a probable cause search of the vehicle.

“During the search, we located 30 packages of methamphetamine in the gas tank of the vehicle,” the trooper wrote. Each package weighed approximately one pound, the statement said.

“After we located the methamphetamine, the driver admitted, after waiving his Miranda rights, that there was 30 packages,” the trooper wrote. “He also admitted he was being paid to transport the methamphetamine.”

Iron County Jail, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 24, 2021 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The arresting trooper noted in the affidavit that the quantity of methamphetamine seized would have a street value between $550,000 and $1.1 million if it were distributed and sold within Iron County.

According to the affidavit, Lopez does not have any known connection to Iron County; his ties reportedly are in Texas and Colorado. The vehicle he was driving reportedly had Colorado license plates.

As of Tuesday morning, Lopez was being held without bail in Iron County Jail awaiting his initial court appearance. According to the charges filed with the court on Tuesday, Lopez faces one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony, possession or use of a controlled substance, a class A misdemeanor and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

This report is based on statements from court documents and law enforcement officials and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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