Three people arrested after the Utah Highway Patrol said troopers discovered 420 pounds of marijuana concealed in their van were arraigned Monday in 9th Circuit Court.
David Villa Armenta, 31, San Diego, Calif., Juan Suarez, 25, and Suarez's 22-year-old wife, Elizabeth, both of Joliet, Ill., were ordered held in lieu of $200,000 bail each, said Iron County Attorney Scott Burns.Judge Robert Braithwaite said a preliminary hearing on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute would be held within 10 days.
The Suarezes' two children, a 3-year-old boy and a 9-month-old girl, were referred to Family Life Services and were being housed in a county care center, officials said.
"I believe (the mother), at least, is an illegal alien," said Burns.
The marijuana, estimated to be worth about $1 million, was discovered in 448 individual packages "neatly stacked" inside the van behind plywood paneling covered with contact paper, Burns said.
The suspects were arrested April 21 after a trooper patrolling Interstate 15 in southern Utah became suspicious at the vehicle's slow rate of speed.
"They were traveling approximately 40 to 45 mph, and the trooper thought they may be impaired, driving at such a slow speed," Burns said.
The vehicle was pulled over about six miles south of Cedar City, he said, and after a visual inspection, the trooper had the van impounded and later obtained a search warrant.
The trio "claimed they were going to Joliet, Ill.," traveling from the Los Angeles, Calif., area, Burns said.