Police search of alleged meth mule’s SUV ruled ‘deceptive’
August 4, 2014
EAGLE — Defense attorney Harvey Steinberg won a battle to help an accused meth mule, but Alejandro Carnalla's war is far from over.
During an Avon traffic stop almost a year ago, a police search found up to a half million dollars worth of methamphetamine in Carnalla's Chevy Tahoe, hidden in a safe under the back seat.
District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman ruled that police were deceptive when they got Carnalla's permission to let them search his vehicle. He ruled that the search was illegal because, when Carnalla asked what kind of search, how intrusive it would be, and asked that it be "as least intrusive as possible," police did not specify that they were going to use drug detecting dogs.
Rebecca Wiard, the assistant district attorney prosecuting Carnalla's Eagle County case, said during a hearing Monday that they'll appeal Dunkelman's ruling. Prosecutors have until Aug. 8 to file their appeal.
Carnalla has pleaded not guilty.
Carnalla's trail of trouble
During the past year, Carnalla has been arrested at least five times in Colorado: Once in Avon, once on a warrant out of Frisco, once in Trinidad and twice in Denver.
Carnalla's Colorado criminal problems began Aug. 14, 2013, when Colorado State Patrol Trooper Shane Gosnell stopped Carnalla for weaving.
After Carnalla's arrest in Avon, he posted bond and left Eagle County and headed for metro Denver. Before long, he was picked up on a separate warrant from the Colorado State Patrol. He bonded out of jail in Denver.
On Jan. 17, Carnalla drove south toward Las Animas County and Trinidad. Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Tonya Billinger clocked him driving a blue Volkswagen four-door sedan at 96 mph in a 75 mph zone, headed south on Interstate 25 toward New Mexico. When they searched the vehicle, State Troopers said they found 22 bogus credit cards. He was also carrying $17,104 in cash, Billinger said. She said he told troopers he owns a trucking company and had sold a vehicle, in explaining why he was carrying so much cash.
He posted $15,000 bond and headed back to Denver where, on Jan. 18, Denver police arrested him after he allegedly used a fake credit card to buy tires from a Denver tire store.
Denver police caught him when he went back to the same store that afternoon to buy more tires, and tried to use the same fake credit card, Denver police said. Denver police also said he had about a pound of methamphetamine on him when he was arrested. He was released on bond.
After a July 7 motions hearing in the Eagle County Justice Center for that Avon case, Carnalla was arrested on a warrant from Frisco — while he was still in the courthouse.
In that Frisco case, Carnalla is accused of identification theft and using a false financial instrument — a fake or stolen credit card. He was held in the Eagle County jail for a few hours that evening, and posted his $15,000 bond at around 10 p.m.
About his Avon arrest
At about 10:11 p.m. on Aug. 14, Gosnell spotted Carnalla driving about 55 mph in a 75 mph zone through Avon, and about 4 feet over the center line of the eastbound lanes of I-70.
He stopped Carnalla and a search of Carnalla's Chevy Tahoe uncovered almost two pounds, 922 grams, of methamphetamine in two vacuum sealed packs, in that safe under the back seat.
Methamphetamine sells for about $20,000 a pound wholesale. Retail, the meth could sell for up to a quarter million dollars per pound, Gosnell said.
They also found $1,500 in cash and nine Southwest Airlines gift cards in Carnalla's shirt pocket, each worth $100.
When questioned at the scene, Carnalla told Gosnell it wasn't his safe and that he didn't know what was in it. However, Carnalla's fingerprints were found on both the safe and some of its contents, state troopers said.
Gosnell also said that a woman riding with Carnalla, who said she was his girlfriend, told him the safe was hers.
When he patted down Carnalla, Gosnell found a GPS tracking device. Carnalla said he used it to track his girlfriend of two months, because he didn't trust her.
Cartels use GPS to track high value loads from one point to another to make sure they get there, Gosnell said.
When asked, Carnalla couldn't come up with his girlfriend's last name, Gosnell said. During court testimony she has been referred to only as "Madison."
Later, when Gosnell asked about Carnalla, she couldn't come up with his last name either.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @torqueandrecoil.