VEKOL VALLEY, Ariz. – Over 1,700 lbs. of marijuana has been seized and a stolen truck has been recovered thanks to efforts of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Air Unit.
|Stolen truck pictured after it was moved from the brush.|
On 3-28-2012, at approximately 3:00 p.m., agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, who were actively tracking multiple drug loads heading north from the Tohono O’odham reservation into Pinal County, requested air support from PCSO.
The PCSO helicopter launched from Casa Grande municipal airport and responded to the area of Vekol Valley.
Two large dust trails consistent with vehicle traffic could be seen six miles south of Interstate 8 near Freeman Road.
The crew followed one of the trails heading northbound and turned over information to Border Patrol regarding the second dust trail.
During an air search of the area, the men identified a pickup truck, hidden in thick brush and partially covered by a green tarp. Two sets of human tracks could be seen leading away from the vehicle.
After clearing the area of possible threats, the crew landed the helicopter and tactfully approached the vehicle. A registration check of the truck showed it was stolen. Inside the vehicle and camper shell deputies found 80 bundles of marijuana; totaling 1,708 lbs.
|Bundles of marijuana pictured packed into the back of the stolen pickup. Also shown is a spare tire and supplies used to travel through the desert.|
The vehicle also contained food and supplies that would allow occupants to live and travel through the desert.
The stolen truck was turned over to the State Auto Theft Task Force. The seized drugs and evidence inside the vehicle were turned over to HSI.
Since May 2011, the PCSO air unit has assisted in 19 Search & Rescue missions, 30 drug smuggling assists and 8 vehicle pursuits. “Yet another prime example why air support is a necessity here in Pinal County. We’re always happy to assist agencies who share our mission to fight the massive amounts of drugs and people who are being smuggled through our county,”
Sheriff Paul Babeu said.