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Marco's Catches
stop it...search it...seize it...
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Stop it...Search it...Seize it...
PSD MARCO service
10/1992-6/2001
THE"ADDICTION"forCRIMINAL
INTERDICTION
ANDPATROLLING
True Stories of Marco's
Greatest Apprehensions and
Drug Arrests
"The Monster Meth Load"
Millions of Vehicles will pass you by during your
career...
Many of them with criminal activity...Will
you do something about it?
   You may have read in a previous Marco Catch story about how one of the
most difficult areas he had sniffed out drugs were inside the actual tires that
were rolling down the highway on a vehicle.  Let me explain that it isn’t the
vehicle is rolling down the highway when he smells it but rather it’s the
concept that the vehicle had been made to drive down the highway like any
other vehicle and that after being stopped by me or any other law officer,
then Marco may smell the drugs inside the tires.  Still confused?  Let me
explain.
   The first time Marco and I or anyone in our agency for that matter who
had ever seized drugs from within specially made compartments inside  the
tires of a vehicle  occurred right after becoming a Dog Handler with Marco.  I
had  been lucky enough to  see a training video put together by some
Narcotic Detectives from California who had showed a new method of finding
drug smuggling.  The video went into detail  how the drugs were compressed
into specially formed  compressed crescent shapes  to fit inside the crescent  
shaped metal  compartments built for the wheels.   The video went on
explaining that the metal  compartments were constructed  with some simple
welding skills and then these hollow compartments  were  filled with drugs
and  then mounted around the  rims of the Pickups trucks  this organization
was using.
   The video went on explaining they had arrested a subject who gave them
information on how the compartments  were made in Mexico, and the
operation smuggled the  marijuana across the border using this  method and
then driving locally to a “stash house”.   Then the  compartments  would be
dismantled so the marijuana could be smuggled in larger increments and
shipped around nationally.  
  I was  astonished  on how much work someone would go to smuggling
marijuana in the country.  But more astonished was how this method was so
fool-proof.   Who would ever think that drugs could be put in the tires rolling
down the highway and not destroyed?   With this method,  it was very
possible.  But I knew I would never see it being a trooper over 1500 miles
away from where most of this dope was coming across the border.   And
then came the  Chevrolet pickup with California plates.
   The time span was  only six months  after seeing that five  minute training
video from California.  I was just working a normal day stopping motorists
for various offenses when around 2PM I clocked an eastbound pickup
traveling 73 MPH.   The speed limit at that  time on the interstate in my area
was 65MPH  so the 8 miles over was more than enough to give them a
warning.  I  had seen as it  sped in the opposite direction that it was a brown
Chevrolet pickup with a topper enclosing the pickup bed, it was  occupied
with a  lone male and that it had a front  and rear California license plate.    
So  I  saw visually it was over the speed limit then confirmed it with the
RADAR.
 
   With my agency, we troopers are trained  extremely well to visually estimate  the
speed of moving vehicles and be within 2 miles per hour when we are certified.  Yes,
that’s right.   Before we are ever issued a RADAR unit, we have to get use to using it
and first be able to pick out the speeding traffic visually.   Then we use the RADAR to
get the actual speed, and we confirm  that speed  in  various other ways by checking
our own speed with what the RADAR shows for our speed, and we also listen to the
Doppler tone that is emitted to see the RADAR is clocking the correct car, which we are
visually watching.
   After this pickup came at me speeding I slowed down to turn around my K-9 unit in
the median and proceeded as fast as my unit would go to catch up.   After I closed in
on the  pickup I was able to  get another  speed  clock but this time using VASCAR,
which  is another speed  clocking  device.    The VASCAR said the pickup was going 83
MPH and  I then turned on  my red lights on the patrol unit to pull it over.  The  pickup
slowly pulled over and I saw two heads pop up in the back of the pickup bed that had
the topper.   So I  knew there were  at least three in the truck.   It pulled over to a
stop and I walked up slowly.  I was able to get the drivers license from the driver and
with his limited English he said the truck belonged to the guy in the back.  So I went
back to the rear and got the license from him.  After I had a conversation with him, I
learned he was Juan Escobedo and the girl had no I.D.  I asked him out of the back of
the pickup truck and talked for a little while.  Long story short, I became suspicious
because of some major Indicators I had been trained to detect.
   Escobedo gave me permission to search the pickup so I called and got a backup unit
there.  George  arrived within a few minutes and I told him I thought something was
“up” but hadn’t started any search and there may be something hidden in a gas tank,
a false topper, a false pickup bed, or many other places but was going to get Marco
out and see what he had to say.  
   I went and retrieved Marco from the patrol unit and walked him to the rear of the
truck and placed him in a “down” position.  He knew from his limited time “on the
streets” that he was going to sniff the vehicle.  We had only been working together for
around seven to eight months but we had already seized a lot of dope hidden in
vehicles.
   When I walked him around the truck, the three suspects were standing down off
the roadway in a safe position and George was keeping and eye on them.  When
Marco walked around the rear to the front with him pausing at the first tire and started
to sniff all around it I thought he was going to pee on it.  So I pulled him away from it.  
He did the same thing to the other tires and I couldn’t quite believe what he was
telling me.
   
I didn’t think it was possible to actually drive with drugs inside the tires
and make it from Los Angeles to the middle of the United States, but I had
to trust my dog.  So I walked Marco around the truck again and he alerted to
the rims one more time.  But I was a very  inexperienced K-9 officer and still
didn’t quite know how to trust my dog especially trying to believe drugs
could be “in” the tires.  But finally I knelt down and stemmed some air out of
the valve stem to smell the odor myself.  Then George did the same.  We
both concluded the tires had marijuana in them so we then had no
alternative but placed handcuffs on the three suspects and then had the
truck towed to a gas station at the closest interstate exit.
    We dismounted the front passenger tire and immediately remarked it
seemed very heavy.  After putting it on a tire dismount machine and getting
a crash course on how to operate it from the gas station attendant, we first
unscrewed the valve stem core to rapidly let all the air out.  Once we did this,
it was quite clear with the odor of raw marijuana emitting throughout the
garage, we were gonna be real busy for a while.  After we got all the tires
dismounted and the metal compartments off the rims (all four) we had seized
88 lbs of marijuana, a Chevrolet pickup truck and 3 people who eventually
went to prison.
    But
this seizure in the tires would not come close to Marcos’ biggest “tire
seizure” amounts he would be responsible for.  Even though that Chevrolet
pickup would be instrumental in helping guys like George and me as well as
others locate this type of concealment, it would not be until four years later
that one of these tire compartments would be the home of a massive
methamphetamine seizure.
    A cold November Monday night had me working my favorite “high crime
area”: Interstate 80.  I was working my standard night shift when around 8
PM I saw a Ford pickup going the opposite way than I was.  The pickup was
going eastbound in Hamilton County when I saw the rear taillights flashing
once and a while.  I turned my patrol unit around through the median and
sped up to make a traffic stop on the vehicle and to issue a simple “fixit
ticket” to get the tail-lights fixed.
    When I got close enough to the truck I checked the license plate to make sure it
was not stolen before I turned on my emergency lights to let it know I wanted it to pull
over.   My dispatch advised me the California license plate belonged to the Maroon
Ford pickup in front of me and was validly registered to a guy in Fresno California.  
Realizing it was not entered as a stolen vehicle, I turned on my red and blue lights on
top of my Ford Bronco that was now my assigned K-9 unit.  I could see two people in
the truck and it quickly pulled over to the shoulder.
    I put my spotlight on the drivers mirror and back window to make it hard for them
to see me clearly and then slowly approached the truck over on the passenger side
which caught both of them off-guard. They were just young kids I first thought.  The
driver stated he had no license because he had lost it on this trip back in Reno
Nevada.  I asked   for the registration and the passenger reached in the glove box and
retrieved it and handed it to me.  That’s when I asked him for any type of I.D. and he
handed me a California driver’s license that he had tucked into his wallet.  I explained
the violation and they both said they thought something wasn’t working right because
of so many vehicles coming up to pass them would then flash their lights at them after
they passed.  I explained it would just be a quick violation card that some people call a
“fixit ticket” and that they just had to make sure it got fixed and no fine would be
given to them.  They both seemed way too excited about all of this, and since I had no
idea who the driver was I asked him out of the Ford.
    I followed him back to my patrol unit and quickly asked him if he was
carrying any weapons on him and I would like to check him before letting him
in my unit.  He said “I ain’t got no weapons…no way.” And then turned his
back to me, placed his hands up and laced his fingers behind his head like he
has this maneuver rehearsed.  I checked him and found nothing illegal and no
wallet was found either.  I had him sit in the unit and started my quick check
on seeing who he was.  He said his name was David Loya and he said he was
twenty years old and had lived in Fresno his whole life.  He said that the truck
belonged to a friend back home and they were driving to Sioux City Iowa.  I
asked him why he no license and he said that he had forgotten it back at the
hotel they had stayed the night before in Reno Nevada.  I asked him the
name of the hotel and he quickly said “The Sierra Grand, or Grand
Sierra…something like that.” He went on with his story about losing his wallet
and that he had even called the hotel to see if they had found it in his room.  
He said he hadn’t realized he had lost it until an hour or so before they were
stopped.  I asked how was he paying for all the gas with no wallet and he
quickly said, “Danny’s payin’ for everything” as he nodded up to the
passenger in the truck.  I asked him the passenger’s name and he said it was
Danny Vasquez and they had been life-long friends.
   He explained the reason they were going to Sioux City was to see his  aunt.  I
asked had he ever been to Sioux City and he said he had not.  He in fact remarked he
had never been out of the state of California.  I asked him why was Danny going with
him and he said because they were friends and that he asked Danny to go to help
drive, he said Danny was paying because of him losing his wallet and he would be
paying him back.  “What’s your aunt’s name?” I asked. He quickly said her name was
Guadalupe Casarez.  He said “we all call her Lupe.”  After he gave me his full name
and date of birth, I called it in to dispatch to see if this was indeed David Loya and if
he had a valid California license and was not wanted on any warrants. As I wrote out
the fixit ticket, I told him to stay where he was because I wanted to talk to his friend.
    As I walked up to the Ford I wondered if everything was normal on this stop and it
was nothing more than a couple young guys on a road-trip or something else.  When I
walked up to the passenger side again, the passenger saw me coming and rolled his
window down.  I asked him what was the name of his buddy back in my unit. He said,
"that’s David…David Loya…he’s got a good license…just not with him.”  I asked him
how he knew Loya and he said they had been friends since they were little and had
went to the same schools and lived a few blocks from each other.  “Where you guys
goin’?” I asked. “We’re going to Iowa.”  “Where in Iowa though” I had to make clear.  
He said to a city called Sioux City because they were going to see his aunt.  “You’re
aunt?” I asked but not in a too suspicious way.  “Yeah” he said.  “You and David are
friends or related or what?”  He said they were good friends but weren’t related.  I
asked why David was going if they were going to see his aunt.  Danny replied, “It’s a
long drive, so I asked him if he wanted to go along.  “What’s your aunts name you
guys are gonna go see?” I asked.   “Her name is Guadalupe Casares. “Can you spell
her last name?”  He quickly responded “C A S A R E S.”    I confirmed a few other things
that both David and Danny had the same story on but wondered had I misunderstood
David when I asked about the aunt?  Because right now I have these guys with the
exact believable story EXCEPT that they both say the aunt is their own.
   “Thanks man” I said to Daniel and walked back to my unit.  I also checked the
passenger Daniel Vasquez with the State Patrol dispatch to see if he had any
warrants and to see if he had a valid license.  As I waited for dispatch’s response on
the licenses I asked Loya the driver, “How long you guys gonna be up there in Sioux
City?”  He said, “Just a day or so, we both gotta get back to work.”  Then I asked,
“What’s your aunts last name and can you spell it.”  He then said, “Her name is
Casarez, C A S A R E Z.”  
  “You and Danny related in any way?”  “Nope, just friends” he said.    "Has Danny
ever met your aunt?”   “No, I haven’t seen her in a long time either.” he replied.  So I
now knew that both these guys were saying the aunt was their own and that they
both spelled it differently.  This was a pretty major discrepancy I felt but everything
else they said was exactly the same.  From the hotel name, to their amount of time on
the road to many other things, but the “aunt story” was not the same.  So after the
dispatch told me they both had valid licenses, I advised Loya how to take care of the
fixit ticket, to get it fixed at the next chance he had so he had working tail-lights while
they were driving during the night and then told him to drive safe.  He thanked me,
shook my hand and stepped out into the cold November air.  
   I quickly exited my patrol unit too and then asked David if he had a few seconds of
his time.  “Sure” he said.  I then went into my questioning that I use when asking
about criminal activity and eventually received consent from Loya to search the truck.  I
then had him stay by the patrol unit and went up to the Ford and asked Vasquez for
his consent too.  Even though I knew I didn’t need it from Vasquez, I wanted to see
how he responded.  Both these guys now seemed extremely nervous.  Quite a
difference from the calm demeanor they had earlier.  So I asked Vasquez out of the
truck and had them both stand down in the ditch so I could deploy Marco on the truck.  
But first I had to check Vasquez for weapons and found none.
   I made a call to dispatch saying I wanted another unit to come to my
location to back me up.  That’s when I got Marco out of the Ford Bronco,
walked him to the Pickup and had him lay down. We did our little “ritual”
before a sniff and then I watched Marco lead me around the pickup.  He
immediately stopped at the first tire and sniffed all around it and started to
scratch at the thing.  I pulled him away and tried to get him to go forward.  
He walked forward and then came right back to the same tire and started to
alert again.  This time I led him to the front of the truck near the engine and
led him in the counter-clockwise direction we had been trying to go.  He made
it around the front to the driver side and then alerted all over the driver side
front tire and rim.
    After this alert and seeing how profound of an alert and scratching
indication he was doing, I went and placed both Loya and Vasquez in
handcuffs.  After we got the pickup truck towed to the Aurora interchange, I
pulled off the tires and on the tire machine I was able to dismount the tires
from the rims and saw the metal compartments inside.  After the first one
was dismantled and the metal compartment unbolted from around the wheel,
I saw the compartments had been sealed up with “bondo”.  I broke the
“bondo” off the ends and saw bundles the size of a large soap bars wrapped
in saran wrap crammed inside.
    I made some calls and we had the truck  put on a flat-bed tow truck to be
towed back to our main office in Grand Island and me and a couple other
troopers transported the suspects with us.  After we got back to Grand
Island many of us worked on getting all the metal compartments out of all
four tires and after we were done taking all the packages out of the
compartments we had sixty-four of them.  What shocked me more was that
after immediately seeing the first couple bundles back at the gas station
when we dismantled the first one, I knew it was not marijuana.  It was a hard
brick of compressed white, off-white powder.
    When it would not field test as cocaine, many of us really didn’t know
what to do.  This was in the days of lots of coke and weed being transported
all over the country.  But it was just in the beginning in our history where
methamphetamine was going to start to become a very big drug in society.  
Meth had already been a major problem in the west, but never being
transported in large huge amounts like this.  All in all it turned out to be
thirty-four pounds of methamphetamine with a street value at that time of
over 1.5 million dollars.  But in all reality it would be worth up to ten times
that when you consider how the purity of the meth in the wheels was so high
that it would be consistently mixed with other powders to “cut” or “step on”
to make more of your product but lower your purity. Millions of dollars worth
from within four tires rolling down the highway.  Strike up another bust for
Marco.
Greg Goltz