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"The RV Load"

The traffic stop of a guy in his RV resulted in a large seizure but the arrest of his "connection"  from the east coast and his satchel of cash was even better.

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’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 was not’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 duffel 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. Drug Interdiction
     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 connecting 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 compartment 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.
      But 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 could 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 scene.
      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 did 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 7 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 someother Federal agency. After an hour or so and phone calls being madebetween 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 myhead 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 duffel 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.
   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 duffel 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.   The following day I learned 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.---

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