Broken down car leads to second pot bust in same area in 24 hours

Published: Tuesday, March 11 2014 10:35 a.m. MDT

A California man whose rental car broke down on the side of I-80 was arrested Monday, March 10, 2014, when police found 22 pounds of marijuana in the trunk after stopping to help the stranded motorist.

Unified Police Department

MAGNA — A broken down rental car led to a large marijuana bust on I-80 Monday — the second such bust in 24 hours in the same area.

About 2:30 p.m. Monday, a Unified police officer spotted a vehicle with its hazard lights blinking on the 7200 West off-ramp from I-80. Believing the motorist might be having mechanical issues with his car, the officer pulled over to help.

"In the process of talking to that driver, he became suspicious," Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said.

He did not say Tuesday what raised red flags with the officer. The driver said he was traveling across the country.

The driver's bad luck continued when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper passing by stopped to help. The trooper also had a drug-sniffing K-9 with him, and, after checking the car, the dog "hit" on the trunk, he said. In the trunk, the officer reported finding 22 pounds of marijuana.

Leonard Anthony Bargas, 49, of Fresno, Calif., was arrested for investigation of drug distribution. The officer also found Bargas was carrying small amounts of methamphetamine, Hoyal said.

That bust came on the heels of another one on Sunday on I-80 near 6500 West. A UHP trooper pulled over a vehicle that was following a semitrailer truck too closely, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report. The trooper took the driver into his patrol car and was going to issue him a warning.

The driver claimed he and two passengers had been in Reno on a gambling trip, according to the report. The driver had a license from North Carolina. One passenger had a driver's license from Texas and a woman in the back seat had a Colorado driver's license. There was also a 2-month-old child in a car seat.

The trooper soon discovered the driver, Anthony Wilson, 30, had a suspended driver's license, a criminal drug history, and his story didn't match what the passengers were saying, the report states.

Initially, the trooper was not given permission to search the car. "He just questioned me as to why I would want to search the vehicle because there was nothing illegal there," the trooper wrote.

After the woman was taken aside from the rest of the group, she said they had been in California and she gave permission to search the car. In the trunk, the trooper found 12 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana, the report states. The marijuana weighed a total of 12 pounds.

Wilson and the male passenger were arrested for investigation of drug possession. The woman and her child were released.

Since Feb. 20, Utah Highway Patrol troopers have made 13 marijuana busts statewide, seizing an estimated 665 pounds of marijuana and 7 pounds of methamphetamine in addition to some heroin. Troopers say during the traditional harvesting season for marijuana growers, the number of busts along the freeways go up.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twittter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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