A highway traffic stop led to the seizure of $10.5 million in narcotics Friday in Merced County, according to the California Highway Patrol.
A CHP K-9 officer conducted an enforcement stop on a 2014 Kia Soul for a traffic violation about 1 p.m. near the Santa Nella scales on I-5 in Merced County, according to a Facebook post by the CHP.
After the officer suspected illegal activity by the driver and passenger, the officer deployed his canine partner. The dog gave a positive alert to the odor of narcotics coming from the vehicle, the CHP news release stated.
As officers were preparing to search the vehicle, they said, the driver fled on foot into an orchard. Despite an extensive search he was not located, but was identified by evidence in the car.
During the search of the vehicle, officers said, they found 735,000 fentanyl-laced pills, weighing 161 pounds, as well as 133 pounds of methamphetamine and 37 pounds of cocaine. The street value of the narcotics is estimated at $10.5 million and the incident represents “the largest narcotics seizure in Merced County history,” according to the CHP.
The Merced Area Gang Narcotics Enforcement Team assisted with the investigation.
The passenger, Ponce Rosales 23, of Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, was arrested and taken to the Los Banos City Jail on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sale, transportation of methamphetamine across noncontiguous counties, possession of cocaine/fentanyl for sale, and transportation of cocaine/fentanyl across noncontiguous counties.
Rosales’ bond was set at $16.2 million according to jail records.