3 men with suspected ties to Mexican cartel arrested in St. George

Posted at 7:32 AM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 09:41:07-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Three men were arrested in St. George after Utah Highway Patrol troopers allegedly found two kilos of drugs and hundreds of fentanyl pills in their possession on Sunday.

Reinaldo Hernandez Ayala, 25, was stopped by a UHP trooper for conducting an incorrect lane change on I-15, according to arrest paperwork. His identification was from Mexico.

Two other men were in the blue sedan he was driving: Sabas Espino Vejar, 22, and Jorge Negrete Ayon Jr., 24.

According to the report, all three suspects were from Tulare County, California.

The trooper "got even more apprehensive of further illegal behavior" after smelling marijuana coming from the car, according to the report. They did not have a legitimate medical marijuana card.

The men allegedly told the trooper they had no idea who owned the vehicle and had no explanation for why they were going anywhere other than "just Utah."

The trooper searched the car after receiving permission to do so, discovering a tiny bag of marijuana and a grinder underneath the front seat, as well as a jar of marijuana in the glovebox.

The trooper discovered three vacuum-sealed packets beneath the backseat: one carrying a black material suspected to be heroin, another containing a white powder, and a third containing baggies of blue M-30 pills "consistent with prior fentanyl seizures."

Multiple 9mm and 45 caliber pistol bullets were discovered by the UHP trooper as he resumed his search.

The three men were all arrested and taken to the UHP office in Cedar City.

Vejar also possessed various Mexican and U.S. job authorization cards, as well as multiple weapons charges on his criminal history. As well as “two separate felony charges from 2021 for kidnapping and inflicting corporal punishment in California.”

According to the report, as troopers investigated further, the driver of the car “was determined to be a member of the Mexican cartel” with a “violent criminal history.”