Bond set for suspected drug runners stopped on I-70 in Eagle County
Second 21-pound meth bust in less than a month reportedly tied to Arizona and Sinaloa, Mexico
EAGLE — Two Arizona men arrested after an April Fool’s Day drug bust on Interstate 70 appeared in Eagle County Court Friday, where they learned they could be facing years in prison if convicted of the charges authorities are considering.
An Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy and a detective working on the Gore Range Narcotics Interdiction Unit stopped two vehicles being driven by the two men, Iran O. Torres, 19, and Guadalupe Valdez Jr., 21, for speeding and driving in the left lane Thursday morning. One vehicle was closely following the other.
The deputies ultimately searched both vehicles after the drivers made inconsistent and conflicting statements, with both drivers giving consent to the search, according to a police affidavit.
A K-9 alerted to the lead vehicle, driven by Torres. Inside it deputies found about 21 pounds of suspected methamphetamine split into 20 packages, about 2.2 pounds of suspected heroin, and a quarter-pound of suspected fentanyl pills.
Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez on Friday set bond at $75,000 for Torres, of Phoenix, Arizona, advising him of the preliminary charges that he is facing. The drugs were found inside a black duffel bag in the back seat of his vehicle, a rental that someone else had rented for him, according to the affidavit.
Bond was set at $25,000 for Valdez, also of the Phoenix area. Asked in court if he understood the charges he is facing, Valdez said none of the drugs were found in his car.
That’s apparently true. But according to the affidavit, Valdez alternately told police he knew Torres was smuggling a large amount of drugs and often smuggles drugs, and that he did not know, but suspected it, claiming he was not involved, while also adding that his girlfriend rented the vehicle for Torres because she gets a good deal through a university in Phoenix.
Prosecutors had requested bond of $150,000 for each suspect.
Torres and Valdez are both potentially facing three counts of possession with intent to distribute, a class 1 drug felony punishable by 8 to 32 years in prison; three counts of unlawful possession, a class 4 drug felony; and three “special offender” sentence enhancers for importing the large amount of drugs into the state.
Prosecutors have until April 9 to file formal criminal charges.
The April Fool’s Day bust marks the second large meth bust on Interstate 70 in less than a month in Eagle County — and the second involving people from both Arizona and Sinaloa, Mexico, transporting drugs to Denver.
The other bust happened on St. Patrick’s Day, when deputies stopped a vehicle driven by a minor league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs who said he was traveling from Phoenix to Denver to teach a kids baseball clinic. Deputies allegedly found 21 pounds of meth and 1.2 pounds of oxycodone inside a Cubs duffel bag in the trunk, along with his baseball gloves and cleats.
That man, Jesus Camargo-Corrales, of Tempe, Arizona, told deputies a friend from Sinaloa had called him and asked him to deliver a bag to Denver, where he would be paid $500, arranging for a third-party to give him the bag to transport before he left Arizona.
Torres also told police someone from Sinaloa contacts him and has him meet someone in Arizona who gives him a bag of drugs to transport. Torres said he was going to deliver the drugs to Denver, where he would be paid $5,000 upon delivery, according to the affidavit.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.