Anyone who is familiar with the Interstate I-80 corridor through Nebraska knows that it is frequently used to transport drugs. To better understand the problem, as well as law enforcement efforts at combatting the problem, an Omaha I-80 drug stop attorney offers the following brief list of major drug busts from a single county (Lancaster) in Nebraska over the past three and a half years.
Lancaster County’s Biggest I-80 Drug Busts
- January 2014 — A deputy found nearly $1 million in vacuum-sealed bags when they stopped Ryan Perich, 30, of Elk Grove, California. Perich claimed he knew the money was drug-related and that he was transporting it from the East Coast to California. Papers found in his vehicle contained addresses and entry code information to storage units on the East Coast that were believed to contain information on drug debts and money collected. Investigators believe the money found was the equivalent of 208 pounds of high-quality, indoor-grown marijuana. Perich was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.
- March 2014 — Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies seized more than 15 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at more than $712,000, during a traffic stop on U.S. 77. The drugs were hidden in the car’s firewall. The vehicle’s owner, Alfonso Lopez-Garcia of Modesta, California, was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison.
- June 2014 — Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies seized more than $118,000 in suspected drug money and nearly 20 grams of marijuana in a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle, Jeffrey Hare, and passenger David L. Gregory, both of Charlotte, were believed to be driving to California to purchase drugs.
- January 2016 — Steven McElmury, 69, of Cedaredge, Colorado, was caught with 515 pounds of marijuana in the bed of his truck. He was sentenced to 18 months to three years in prison.
- July 2016 — Sheriff’s deputies found 5 pounds of meth hidden in a cooler in a car stopped on Interstate 80 just outside of Lincoln. Richard Perez and Aniceto Perez Jr., both of California, pleaded no contest to a charge of possession of marijuana and will serve between five and 12 years in prison.
- August 2016 — Deputies seized a kilo of cocaine, $960 in cash, cellphones and a Coca-Cola hat during a traffic stop on Interstate 80. Francisco Alvarex, 27, from Santa Ana, California, was arrested and eventually sentenced to 5 years of prison time.
- September 2016— Deputies found nearly 100 pounds of marijuana in heat-sealed vacuum bags when they pulled over Noah Vang, 29, of Appleton, Wisconsin. Vang pleaded guilty to attempted delivery of marijuana and was sentenced to nearly two years of prison time.
- February 2017 — Deputies with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office found 55 pounds of cocaine inside a tractor-trailer traveling on Interstate 80. They arrested the driver, 56-year-old Gustavo Zamora, charging him with possession of more than 140 grams of cocaine. If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison.
- November 2017 — Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies arrested suspected Oregon marijuana processor Richard Wilkinson after finding 110 pounds of marijuana, plus about $1.1 million in a cannabis extract called shatter, during a traffic stop, Sheriff Terry Wagner says. Wilkinson was stopped near the downtown Lincoln interchange on eastbound Interstate 80.
- Early 2018 — Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies seized 214 pounds of marijuana and arrested a driver they say was hauling it across Nebraska in early 2018. A deputy pulled over an eastbound U-Haul truck driven by 54-year-old James M. Casey of Yuma, Arizona, for speeding on Interstate 80 near the U.S. 77 South interchange, the sheriff’s office said in an affidavit for his arrest. The deputy gave Casey a warning and asked to search his vehicle. Casey denied the deputy’s request, then a police dog indicated it smelled drugs in the truck. The deputy found the marijuana in 10 boxes and garbage bags in the back of the truck. Casey was taken to jail and later charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
- January 2018 — A Lancaster County sheriff’s deputy spotted a westbound Chrysler Pacifica following too closely near mile marker 390. A search of the van, a rental with New York plates, turned up broken, pre-rolled marijuana joints in a Red Bull can, a baggie with amphetamine residue in a sunflower seed bag, and three cake mix cans containing $234,956 in the van’s cargo area. The driver and passenger, 25-year-old Kevin Conrado of Los Angeles and 34-year-old Vazgen Manjikian of Van Nuys, California, were lodged in Lancaster County jail on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
- February 2018 — Three men were arrested and more than 300 pounds of marijuana seized by Lancaster County Sheriff’s deputies during separate traffic stops on Interstate 80 near Lincoln. The first stop occurred near the Nebraska 103 exit. A deputy pulled over an eastbound SUV for speeding and following too closely. Deputies found 98 packages of marijuana in boxes and a duffel bag in the rear hatch area. The driver, Doua Vu, 50, of Fresno, California, was jailed on possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and no drug tax stamp. Two days later deputies stopped two eastbound vehicles they believed to be traveling together: a car for following too closely and a truck for traveling over the shoulder line. Deputies searched the truck and found seven duffel bags containing 134 pounds of marijuana and 2,150 THC vapor-pen cartridges. The truck driver, Ariel Hernandez of Chicago, was taken to jail on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. The driver of the car, Samuel Colonna, 22, of Chicago, was jailed on suspicion of aiding and abetting possession with intent to deliver.
- April 2018 — $500,000 worth of methamphetamine secreted inside a Iowa man’s car during a traffic stop west of Lincoln. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Council Bluffs was driving east on Interstate 80 when a deputy pulled him over near the Nebraska 103 exit for following too closely. A K-9 “sniff” search followed and the dog indicated drugs were inside. Deputies found 12 pounds of meth in void spaces in the car’s body. The 30-year-old was charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of meth, according to federal court records. Federal investigators also searched a home near Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben area and seized one pound of meth, worth nearly $19,000, miscellaneous documents and a cell phone. They arrested the man at the house, identified in court documents as Ramon Ceballo Gaspar. Federal investigators believe Ceballo Gaspar was dealing meth in the Omaha metro area and was awaiting the meth hidden in Rodriguez-Lopez’s car. Ceballo Gaspar was charged with the same federal drug offense.
- May 2018 — State troopers arrested two people and seized more than 250 pounds of marijuana found in a fake compartment during an Interstate 80 traffic stop near Lincoln. James Conry and Courtney Passiglia were stopped by the Nebraska State Patrol near the 27th Street exit after a trooper saw an after-market compartment on their eastbound flatbed truck. Passiglia, the driver, was issued a warning for following too closely, and the trooper had a police dog sniff around the truck. The dog indicated it smelled drugs coming from the truck, and both Conry and Passiglia denied the trooper’s request to search their property or the truck. The trooper pried open the compartment and found 263 pounds of marijuana in heat-sealed bags. Both Conry and Passiglia were arrested and have been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
- April 2018 — Lancaster County deputies just west of the Northwest 48th Street interchange stopped a 1998 Fleetwood motor home on suspicion of several traffic violations. Deputies asked to search the motor home, and Richard L. White Jr. and Joy White, his wife, allowed deputies to look inside. In the bedroom of the Tulsa couple’s motor home, investigators found 62 heat-sealed packages of marijuana stashed under the mattress, totaling over 116 pounds. Richard White, 47, was taken to jail on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. His wife, 54, was ticketed and released on suspicion of the same offense. Investigators believe the couple was bound for Tulsa.
- April 2018 — Lancaster County deputies found 100 pounds of marijuana in large hockey bags during a traffic stop on Interstate 80 near the U.S. 77 exit. Two Florida women were arrested.
- June 2018 — Two California men were arrested in early June in an Interstate 80 traffic stop in Lincoln after deputies found 145 pounds of marijuana in their SUV. A Lancaster County sheriff’s deputy pulled over a Ford Explorer driven by David Gonzales-Nava for following too closely near the west U.S. 77 exit. A deputy asked to search the SUV and found 145 pounds of marijuana in four large suitcases and a duffel bag in the back of the SUV. Sandoval-Aparicio, 24, of Livingston, California, and Gonzales-Nava, 29, of Oakdale, California, were arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana with intent to deliver.
- June 2018— Deputies arrested two Oregon residents and seized $84,000 of suspected drug money in a traffic stop on Interstate 80 west of Lincoln. Jason P. Gibbs, 32, and Kierstin A. King, 27, were driving west in a Jeep near the Crete exit when a Lancaster County sheriff’s deputy pulled them over for failure to drive in the right lane. Gibbs, the driver, declined to let the deputy search the vehicle, but the deputy had a police dog sniff around the Jeep. The dog indicated it smelled drugs, and deputies found $84,000 of bundled cash in the Jeep, according to the sheriff’s office. The cash tested positive for having trace amounts of cannabis on it, investigators said. Both were arrested and later charged with possession of drug money.
Contact an Omaha I-80 Drug Stop Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense in Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha I-80 drug stop attorney as soon as possible. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.
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