On Thursday, February 20th, 2014 at 8:52 a.m. a Pinal County Sheriff K-9 deputy was on patrol in the area of Sunland Gin Road and West Pretzer Road. He observed a 1999 Chevy E-2500 van fail to stop at a stop sign and he had also observed the van traveling at 75 mph in a 45 mph zone. The deputy initiated a traffic stop and the vehicle continued for another ½ mile. The deputy could see that the driver was on his cell phone and he kept looking back in the direction of the deputy.
When the vehicle stopped, the deputy approached the vehicle and as he got close, the driver hung-up his cell phone. The driver of the vehicle did not have a wallet or any identification on his person or in the vehicle. The deputy asked the driver to step out of the vehicle. As the driver did, he told the deputy he was on his cell phone with the “spotters” in the area who were watching them.
The driver was later identified as Ramon Garcia (age 22 of Mexico). Ramon further explained that the spotters had told him to run from the deputy when they saw him attempting to catch up with him. The deputy observed in the van nearly a dozen industrial sized trash bags completely filled with food, produce, and meats. Also in the van were two spare tires for a Ford Super Duty truck and nearly a dozen gas cans full of diesel fuel. There were also numerous cases of water and approximately six 5 gallon water jugs.
Ramon said that he didn't know where he was supposed to take the food for the spotters because he was stopped before he received the call on where to go. Ramon was taken into custody without incident. Within minutes, agents with U.S. Border Patrol intercepted a white stolen Ford Super Duty pickup truck that was completely loaded with marijuana bundles (approximately 1,600 lbs). The truck was intercepted approximately 1/2 mile south west into the desert from the traffic stop.
Ramon and the vehicle were turned over to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office - Anti-Smuggling Unit for processing and interview. Detectives went through the van and seized approximately 600 pounds of food. Detectives contacted the Eloy Food Bank and they responded to take the food and water. The food bank said many of their shelves were empty and the large load of food and water will help those in need.
Ramon was interviewed by detectives and admitted he had been paid $4,000.00 to pick the van up in Chandler and drive it to the Silverbell area where he would drop the food off for the “spotters” and then he would pick up a load of marijuana. Ramon did not know where exactly he was supposed to drop off the food and pick up the marijuana because the deputy had stopped him before he got the phone call.
Border Patrol agents brought the white Ford diesel truck to our substation. The gas cans in the van contained diesel and the spare tires in the van were a match for the truck.
Ramon Garcia was booked into the Pinal County Jail for Assisting a Criminal Syndicate, Conspiracy to Transport Marijuana, and Conspiracy to Smuggle Illegal Aliens. The vehicles involved were seized and requests for forfeiture will be completed.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “The cartels of Mexico have between 75 to 100 lookout posts through this known drug and human smuggling corridor. They use these high vantage points to ensure their shipments of drugs or illegals make it through. Some of these shipments stop in Phoenix but many of them are sent throughout the United States. We will continue to bring a heavy hand of enforcement to those who think they can smuggle drugs or humans through Pinal County.”