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More than $300K of drugs found in spare tire during traffic stop on I-15

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Posted at 11:26 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 01:26:56-04

WASHINGTON CITY, Utah — A traffic stop on Interstate 15 in southern Utah led to the arrest of an Orem man after officers found a large amount of methamphetamine and heroin in a spare tire, St. George News reports.

On Sunday, an officer was stationed at mile marker .5 on Interstate 15 facing northbound traffic shortly after 10 p.m. watching as vehicles entered into Utah from Arizona as part of a drug interdiction program, according to a report filed in support of the arrest.

It was then the officer observed a white Ford Econoline following closely behind a semitractor-trailer. When the officer pulled out into traffic to follow the vehicle, the van quickly changed lanes and then continued crossing back and forth between the lanes for several miles. The officer activated his emergency lights and conducted a traffic stop at mile marker 10 in Washington City.

The officer, who was soon joined by two Washington County Sheriff’s deputies, spoke to the driver who said he didn’t speak English as he handed over his temporary Utah driver’s license and his ID card issued out of Mexico.

The driver was identified as 41-year-old Mauro Flores-Murillo of Orem.

The officer ran a K-9 around the vehicle to conduct an exterior sniff, and when the animal alerted to the possible presence of narcotics near the rear driver’s side of the van, officers searched the vehicle.

During a search of the area where the spare tire was located, the report says officers noticed the tire was not the correct size for the van, and upon further inspection, they noted it did not appear to have any air in it.

The tire was lowered out of the van, which is when the officer noticed a large cut on the tire and also a hole that was covered by a black towel. When the towel was removed, officer recovered 15 large plastic bags weighing one pound each that contained a white crystallized substance of suspected methamphetamine. The narcotics were valued at more than $270,000.

The officer also found a large black plastic bag containing 2.5 pounds of suspected heroin valued at more than $73,500.

Police say both substances were field tested and the analysis returned a positive result for narcotics.

Washington County Drug Task Force agents were called in to assist in collecting and securing the evidence. The language barrier prevented officers from interviewing the suspect, so instead Murillo was transported directly to Purgatory Correctional Facility and booked into jail on two second-degree felony counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.