In 2012, voters amended Colorado’s state constitution to protect the “personal use” of marijuana for adults, establishing a framework to regulate cannabis in the same manner to alcohol. Following the new laws, was a crop of marijuana shops opening up in Colorado, helping to make I-80 one of the busiest stretch of road for drug traffickers in the nation.
As drug trafficking increases in Colorado’s neighboring state of Oklahoma, so has the efforts of the police. With the combined resources of the sheriff’s office and University of Oklahoma police, a new task force has been designed to go after mid- and high-level drug traffickers, according to the LPD’s website. Together, the deputies in conjunction with the task force has seized more than $12 million in property and illegal drugs in 2010.
In a single month, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Deputy, Jason Mayo, siting three very sizable drug busts.
So, just how much did he seize? Fresh after being released from a three-year training stint with Lincoln/Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force, Deputy Mayo’s haul included 23 pounds of marijuana and nearly 6 pounds of methamphetamine worth a total of $365,000.
“A lot of it’s luck, honestly,” he said. “You can stop 25 cars a day and each one of them are law-abiding citizens.
“And sometimes you stop one car a day and you get a big bust. It goes in streaks.”
One of his random routine stops included a 2005 Suzuki XL7 at 11:20 p.m., going 75 mph in a 65mph zone.
Right from the start, the conversation with driver Benjamin Paul Smart, and Joseph R. Beard, raised some red flags. The two men told conflicting stories about travels, and later investigation revealed that Smart had a suspended Alabama driver’s license.
Mayo then employed the skilled nose of Sacha, a police dog also fresh out of training, who signaled the presence of narcotics. This gave the deputy the probable cause he needed to search the vehicle.
The hunch proved successful, as Mayo found more than 18 pounds of high-quality medical marijuana stuffed in the back of their SUV. The amount was later valued at nearly $90,000.
Just less than 24 hour before, Mayo made another large bust for the exact same reasons, in the exact same place, I-80. When the deputy pulled over a 2011 Dodge Journey with California plates for speeding, he couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming smell of burnt marijuana emanating from the vehicle.
The driver, Stanley Burt, 37, denied smoking marijuana to the officer. He then gave Mayo the OK to search his car, turning up more than 4 ½ pounds of marijuana, worth about $23,000.
Besides marijuana, other more dangerous drugs make their way down I-80. A month earlier and just a mile away, Mayo made what might be the biggest methamphetamine bust in the history of the Sheriff’s Office.
Again, he pulled over a California couple for speeding, with the same nonsensical and suspicious stories.
After diver Kevin Barreau, and his wife, Adella Nicole Capella, allowed Mayo to search his car, the officer discovered 5.7 pounds of meth, valued at a staggering $250,000. What was truly disturbing, however, is that their 1-year old daughter was also in the car, an accessory to their drug runner scheme. Since then, the parents have been indicted on federal drug charges, and the baby placed in state custody.
“The task force is really paying off,” said nine year veteran officer Terri Wagner. “This deputy is really bringing his expertise to the streets.”
Mayo said he hopes his efforts encourage other deputies to become comfortable with working the interstate and making drug busts, even though they’re not a part of the narcotics task force.