|True Stories of Marco's Greatest
Apprehensions and Drug Arrests
"The RV Load"
| Marco was always a great patrol dog and made many an
apprehension of criminal suspects. But he really excelled in catching
people with drugs using his detector dog qualities. Marco was trained as
a dual-purpose dog. Most police dogs are either a dual-purpose or a
single-purpose trained animal. Dual-purpose means the animal is
trained for patrol work and detector work. A single-purpose animal is
trained for only one of those qualities.
Marco’s Patrol-dog specialties were: tracking suspects, apprehension
to include bite work, smelling the ground for recovery or locating of
evidence, building searching, area searching and Marco was one of only a
handful of our dogs that had special SWAT dog training that even
included rappelling. Yep, Marco didn’t like it much but he would be
harnessed up and actually rappel down the side of a building with me
and be deployed.
A detector trained dog means it is trained to alert to odors such as
explosives or illegal drugs. Dogs are never trained to alert to both of
those things. So a detector dog has the ability to alert to one of those
specialties. And those specialties are broken down into many odors.
Explosive detector dogs are trained for many odors, TNT being an
example. A drug detector dog usually alerts to a specific amount of very
popular illegal drugs. Marco’s specialties were: Cocaine,
Methamphetamine, Marijuana, and Heroin,
Marco had a great career alerting to drugs of all kinds in his tenure
in the K-9 division. To me it wasn’t the ‘monster’ drug loads that he
would detect that would astonish me. It was the area of concealment he
would find the drugs in. It would be quite different in the expectation I
had in him when the drugs were simply in a suitcase or duffle bag and
lying in the trunk. Marco could alert to the drug loads every time. And
that was with the trunk closed too. The degree of difficulty rose
dramatically against us when the drugs were hidden in secret
compartments. Sometimes the compartments weren’t really
compartments but rather the hollow areas in a vehicle.
A perfect example was when the smugglers would load up the inside
of a car door with drugs or maybe hide them in up inside the dashboard
or maybe even in the tailgate of a pickup truck or SUV. But when the
smugglers had an after-market specially made hidden compartment that
they would try their darndest to make air-tight, conceal their drugs and
then Marco would still find them is really what gave me the satisfaction
of being a K-9 handler that made the hard work worth it.
One of the hardest places Marco had located drugs were in the gas
tank of vehicles and in the tires of the vehicles. When I mean the tires,
I am not talking about the spare tire. Marco would religiously nail
those. I’m talking about the actual tires mounted to the rims of the
vehicle and rolling down the road.
It’s quite ingenious, more frequent than one would guess and the concept has
been around by the smugglers for years. The organizations use metal and welding
skills and construct hollow metal box rings that fit around the rims on the inside of
the tires. The metal compartments are filled with drugs, mounted to the rim by either
welding it to the rim or using nuts and bolts and connec-ting them to each other
around the rim. Then the tire is mounted, the tire is usually balanced very well and
mounted on the vehicle. Something that many people would have no concept of just
like I had no idea of the concept until some training I had received early in my career.
Next thing you know, Marco and I were on to an 88 lb. marijuana seizure in the four
tires of the Chevrolet pickup that had traveled from California on its way to Chicago
when we got the arrest and drugs seized all from a normal routine traffic stop.
After that metal tire compartment arrest, I made it a habit to train
with Marco around tires and having him alert when he would smell the
odor even if I depressed the valve stem core to release some air in is
face. The first couple times, this freaked him out. But after training
with him, he would quickly let me know when he smelled drug odor
coming from the valve stem by biting at them. He even made a massive
methamphetamine drug seizure with me a few years later in this same
way. He had already made several tire compart-ment seizures by the
time the Ford pickup with California plates drove by that late cold winter
night. Neither he nor I would realize until hours later that we were in
the middle of the largest methamphetamine arrest in the state’s history.
After I made a traffic stop of the pickup I thought something was not
right so I deployed Marco and he started to bite the valve stems off
when I let air out of them and he would scratch and paw at the rims as
he alerted all around that area. I called for backup and made the arrest
of the two young males and later after we dismantled the tires and
located the metal compartments with drugs inside I was astonished
when I looked at the sixty-four separate saran wrapped green and red
packages and could immediately see and tell it was not marijuana. I
was excited to think of a great cocaine bust from tire compartments and
then when it did not field test positive for cocaine I was bewildered. So
was everyone in the garage who was assisting.
This was before the days of the cross country major
methamphetamine trafficking that the U.S. would start to see. I
performed a field test for methamphetamines and it turned the positive
reaction. I couldn’t believe it. None of us could. We had 34 lbs. of
methamphetamine hidden in metal compartments wrapped around the
wheels of a Ford pickup. And two young men would spend the next 19
years in a Federal prison for their actions in the crime.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon while patrolling the Interstate my life and
the life of a middle aged man would collide that day and the end result
was just one story of many that Marco would be instrumental in when
using his Detector dog skills.
Roger Peters (pseudonym) would never see it coming when he was
caught. It happened so fast he would only realize after being in
handcuffs (something Peters had been accustomed to) that his life was
going to change. It had to.
I had seen Peters driving eastbound on Interstate 80 in a big motor
home. It was less than 5 years old and had an in-valid temporary tag in
the rear window. Peters wasn’t paying attention on his long journey
when I saw his RV make some minor driving violations. Peters was a
white male in his 50’s wearing dirty kakai pants and a thick green
Norwegian sweater and boat shoes. He almost resembled some guy who
should be sitting on a dock with his grandson fishing for Haddock. He
was overweight by at least 40 pounds and curly hair and an overgrown
moustache. Only after greeting him did I become suspicious. I had
never met Peters before nor knew of him, but as soon as I met him,
something ‘smelled funny’.
Peters, I would learn was coming from Scottsdale Arizona with his
newly purchased motor home on his way to Minneapolis to see his folks.
That’s what he said at least. After seeing his actions and reactions to
some questions my suspicions rose but I didn’t want him to know what I
thought. He had recently relocated to Arizona from the Florida area and
‘recently’ meant about the last couple years of him being in Arizona.
Florida was where he was really from and had run a couple restaurants
he explained until Hurricane Andrew wiped him out. He said he relocated
after getting no Federal assistance in rebuilding. I soon was learning
things that made me more and more suspicious during my brief
encounter while writing him out his citation for his traffic violations. The
dispatcher told me by talking with me on my cellular phone that Peters
had quite an extensive criminal history. Everything from drug charges to
kidnapping he did prison time for. He didn’t know I had learned these
things about him though and he was soon lying when I asked him about
any past problems with law enforcement.
As Marco patiently waited in the rear of my K-9 unit and Peters sat
inside the patrol unit with me I finished up the paperwork, handed back
to him his license and motor home information and told him to have a
safe day after explaining the citation. Peters shook my hand thanking
me for his citation and exited my squad car and started to walk back to
the RV. That’s when I hit him up with some small talk.
I exited my squad unit and asked Peters if he had a second or two and
he said “You bet.” I said my little lingo with Peters and then next thing
you know I was searching his motor home. But not until I used Marco. I
retrieved Marco and walked up to the RV following Peters and he said he
had a dog inside the RV. I asked him to stand to the side of the RV
away from me and then walked Marco around the RV.
Marco used his nose and smelled every seam, screw hole and crack on the
outside of the big moving home. It took only one walk-around and he was alerting to
all these places scratching sporadically. I placed Peters in handcuffs while explaining
to him how my dog was alerting to his RV. He had no resistance and had nothing to
say. I placed him safely in the squad car and called for backup. But before my
backup could arrive I called Marco up off the ground in his ‘down’ position and led him
around the RV again. Again Marco alerted everywhere and I let him scratch and paw
and bite on all the locations he smelled the odor of drugs.
Then I put Marco in a ‘down’ position again and entered the RV
seeing Peters’ dog. It was a mix between a German Shepherd and a Lab
but really wasn’t that big and was a real sweetheart. I noticed she did
have a collar but saw no leash in the RV. I quickly looked around in the
RV and didn’t see anything illegal. I went back to my squad and reached
inside my car door and grabbed an extra leather leash. I then asked
Peters if his dog was mean and he said she was quite the opposite. As I
went back towards the RV Marco looked up at me with the leash and
thought he was going in. He stood up before I commanded him to and
had to say “Plotz, plotz” and he was right back down on the warm ground
next to the Interstate shoulder. So I entered the RV and leashed up the
timid dog and then knew I had to be careful when walking out with her in
front of Marco. I knew it make be a dogfight, but Marco watched as the
new friend and I walked down the two steps of the RV past him. His
only response was raising his ears to full attention. I placed the leash
over and around one of the metal reflector poles nearby the RV on the
side of the Interstate shoulder. She wouldn’t lie down but she was safe
there and couldn’t get run over.
That’s when I reentered the RV with Marco and had him lay down in
the aisle of the mammoth beast. I unhooked the leash from him and
again gave him his command to hunt for narcotics. He hunted around and
ran in the back bedroom and started to aggressively snort and alert at
the edge of the bed. Marco then started to scratch the sides of the bed
and I rose up the mattress and saw it had been resting on a solid piece
of plywood mounted to the pedestal base that is standard in most motor
homes. I saw the freshly screwed in drywall screws and then hunted
around the RV and found a battery operated screwdriver with a Phillips
bit. Bingo! I thought. I took the tool to the embedded screws and
started to unscrew them all the while looking out the back window to see
Peters sitting in my squad car and took all twenty of them out. I quickly
raised the plywood and saw the large bales of marijuana. I guessed it
was around 250 to 300 lbs in the 15 bales and soon my backup was on
When we got the RV and its dog back to my office along with Peters, we really
got the investigation going. We learned after interviewing Peters and analyzing his
criminal record, this marijuana was not going to help his future unless he did one
thing. Cooperate. We weighed up the weed and it turned out to be 321 lbs and after
the DEA was called the ball really started rolling.
Peters admitted he had a source in Arizona where he buys the weed at a specific
price ($350 per pound) and then he transports it to Minneapolis where his parents
really do live. He said that is the half way point where his contact from the east coast
comes, and buys the marijuana directly from Peters for cash. He admitted that his
contact was from Boston and would exchange him the weed for $160,000. This guy
was sitting in a motel at that moment Peters said and had $160,000 is U.S. dollars. I
thought we had to get a hold of that cash and see if we could make some more
arrests. The only way to do this was if Peters would cooperate. We soon found out
he was more than willing to cooperate.
After talking with the prosecutor and getting things lined up, we
had Peters agreeing to assist us in law enforcement in delivering all the
marijuana to his contact in Minneapolis. This Controlled delivery as it’s
called would be accomplished by a phone call being made to the contact
by Peters with us recording it. If the contact didn’t act like he was
spooked for any reason we would then either fly the RV, Peters, the
marijuana and us up to Minneapolis in a C-5 military transport plane or
else we would drive the 15 hours there in the RV and some unmarked
state police cars.
The only way though this could work since we were leaving the state and had to
cross state lines is we had to have the assistance of he DEA or some other Federal
agency. After an hour or so and phone calls being made between our agency and
DEA, they the DEA decided against the investment of federal dollars to take Peters up
to Minneapolis in order to make the arrest of whoever this 3rd guy was gonna be.
What? We had a guy in Minnesota with a huge amount of cash and we wanted to
snag it but DEA didn’t think it would work? Total frustration I had. Peters was just
as frustrated. He was willing to cooperate with the law and he couldn’t because the
DEA didn’t want to ‘play’. I sat there after hearing the phone conversation between
our Investigator and the DEA guy and got really upset.
Then the light bulb turned on in my head and I went into the
interview where Peters was sitting and asked him, “Do you think he’ll
come down here to us to get his weed and take the delivery here if you
convince him you wrecked your RV or some other story that seems
believable?” He said that he would come to us. He was a guy named
Peter Goings (pseudonym). A white male in his late fifties who Peters
said trusted him enough to believe what ever story they worked out. I
asked Peters, “Why do you think Goings is gonna come here?” “Cause he
trusts me, I've done this way too many times with him” he said.
So that was our next mission. See if we can get Goings to agree to
come to us with the cash to take the weed. We set up a recording
device on the phone and let Peters make the call. Goings picked up the
phone, they talked and Peters convinced him that the RV was broke down
at an interchange and couldn’t be worked on till Monday and he was
nervous sitting on all that weed and that Goings had to come get it. “I’ll
leave in the morning” Goings said. They talked a little more about the
specific location he was supposedly broke down and then they hung up.
Peters said he didn’t think Goings had any clue about what was going on
and said that he would be there tomorrow that Sunday.
So I left Peters in the hands of the investigators and I then supplied several
large duffle bags to place the marijuana in and then the RV and weed were locked up
as well as Peters till the next day. Now it was up for the state police investigators to
take over the investigation and I went home. I had the opportunity to go and help
out the next day and rake in some overtime since the Sundays were my day off but I
decided to let the investigators go and have their fun.
And fun is what they had. The investigators calculated how long it would take
Goings to get to us from Minneapolis and set up unmarked state police cars in the
area and wired the RV with audio and video recording devices as well as wiring up
Peters. It was around 5 PM and a green Ford pickup with a topper bearing
Massachusetts plates exited and came over top of the interstate and drove right up
beside the RV. Goings got out, approached the RV, opened the door, entered it and
the conversation started. In a matter of a minute, they had shook hands and off
loaded the duffle bags of bales marijuana from the RV to the back of the pickup. All
in broad daylight. Then the best part was when Goings handed Peters a black bag
from the pickup and Peters put it in the refrigerator of the RV.
That’s when the undercover hidden officers literally came out of the weeds
hidden in their guille suits and the unmarked units blazed in and both Peters and
Goings were arrested before Goings even knew what hit him. Only after he got in the
state trooper car in handcuffs did he know that he had been ratted out by Peters.
I found out later that day after I called to see how things worked out,
that Goings gave Peters a bag with cash but it didn’t have $160,000 in
cash. Instead it had $155,000 but we were just as ecstatic. We had
seized a $30,000 RV, seized $155,000 in cash, had 321 lbs or marijuana
off the streets and better than all that, later that evening Goings gave
up his connections in Boston.
This copper-caper with Marco in this case ended with Goings being
Federally Indicted and successfully prosecuted with a lighter sentence
because of his contacts he gave up on the east coast and better even
still was that Peters was later signed up to assist FBI out in Arizona and
with his assistance several tons of marijuana were seized, many
suspects arrested and charged and an airplane used in transporting the
multiple tons was also seized.
Not all bad for a simple traffic stop using Marco.
|Millions of Vehicles will pass you by during your
career... Many of them with criminal activity...Will
you do something about it?