A couple of drug smugglers ditched a broken down van loaded with $1.3 million in marijuana after a sheriff’s deputy spotted the pair trying to fix the vehicle.
A Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy was patrolling along Toltec Road near Battaglia Road in the unincorporated area of Eloy at about 1:30 p.m. Friday when he saw a 15-passenger van broken down on the side of the road, Tim Gaffney, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said in a news release.
The hood of the van was up and two Hispanic men were standing in front of it. But when they spotted the deputy, the men ran to a Buick sedan parked in front of the van and drove off, Gaffney said.
The deputy tried to catch up with the Buick, but it sped away, so he returned to the van, which was filled with bundles of marijuana — 1,177 pounds, all total, with a street value of $1,332,750.
A short time later, a sergeant on patrol spotted the Buick westbound on Interstate 10 and pulled it over.
“Both men were the two individuals the deputy originally saw standing by the van along the side of the roadway,” Gaffney said. “Additionally, the ignition key for the van was found on the floorboard of the Buick.”
The driver of the Buick was identified as Raymundo Angulo-Lopez, 35. The passenger was identified as Jose Leon-Beltran, 30. Both men are from Mexico and are in the United States illegally, Gaffney said.
In addition, Angulo-Lopez had been arrested in 2009 for smuggling drugs, the news release stated.
Angulo-Lopez and Leon-Beltran were booked into the Pinal County jail for possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana for sale and conspiracy to transport marijuana.