Large Quantity of Fentanyl Discovered in Traffic Stop on 1-40

Haywood County, TN—On Sunday evening in West Tennessee, a staggering 85 pounds of Fentanyl were discovered in a vehicle on I-40, leading to the arrest of a Texas couple who are now facing a $5 million bond at the Haywood County Jail.

Athena, an adept K9 from Haywood County, played a crucial role in assisting her handler in locating the hidden drugs. The illicit substance was cleverly concealed within bags of fertilizer, carefully tucked inside a tent placed within another tent bag.

The events unfolded on March 10th, as agents from the West Tennessee Drug Task Force of the 30th Judicial District in Memphis conducted a routine traffic stop on a 2024 Toyota Tacoma with Florida registration. The stop was initiated due to a traffic violation observed while the vehicle was traveling eastbound on I-40.

During the stop, law enforcement agents, suspecting the presence of narcotics, decided to employ a narcotics canine around the vehicle. The K9’s positive alert for the odor of narcotics prompted a thorough search, ultimately revealing a substantial 38.5 kilograms (85 pounds) of fentanyl cunningly hidden within bags of fertilizer and intricately folded inside a tent, further concealed within a tent bag.

The individuals behind this illicit transportation, Ernesto Ortiz, 42, and Maria Munoz-Arevalo, 25, hailing from Humble, TX, were taken into custody. They now face charges of delivering a Schedule II controlled substance and are presently detained at the Haywood County Jail under a hefty $5,000,000.00 bond. The wholesale value of the seized drugs is estimated to be around $1 million, with a potential street value nearly ten times that amount. The ongoing investigation is focused on unraveling further details.

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Director Johnie Carter of the Drug Task Force emphasized the lethal nature of fentanyl, highlighting that as little as 2.0 milligrams can lead to an overdose. Notably, Tennessee ranked 2nd among overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, with 56.1 people per 100,000, according to the most recent data on the CDC website.

The West Tennessee Violent Crime and Drug Task Force, operating across Shelby, Haywood, Crockett, Gibson, Dyer, and Lake counties, involves full-time officers from the 28th, 29th, and 30th Judicial Districts. These operations are carried out through agreements between District Attorneys Mulroy, Agee, and Goodman.

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