On Tuesday, March 18th, 2014, at 8:29 a.m., a Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy was on patrol in the area of Highway 84 and Highway 347. The deputy stopped a Chevy HHR sports utility vehicle after he observed the driver commit a traffic violation.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Miguel Gomez-Valdez, age 21, of Mexico, and the passenger was Rodolfo Celaya-Leyva, age 27, of Mexico.
As the deputy approached the vehicle, the occupants rolled down their windows. The deputy could immediately smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside of the vehicle. When the deputy looked into the vehicle, he could see several packaged bundles of marijuana in the rear seat, passenger’s side front floorboard and the rear cargo section. There was also a handheld Kenwood portable radio on top of the marijuana bundles in the rear seat.
Miguel and Rodolfo were both arrested. The deputy seized 14 bundles of marijuana, which weighed a total of 330 pounds with an estimated street value of $262,500. Miguel was also in possession of 3 cell phones.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office – Anti-Smuggling Unit took over the investigation with the assistance of the U.S. Border Patrol. Both suspects admitted to being in the United States illegally. Miguel said that he has been living in Phoenix for a few months, and Rodolfo said that he crossed the border the week prior with a group of nine other individuals. The marijuana seized in the vehicle came from the group Rodolfo was with when he crossed the border. Each individual carried bundles on their back from Mexico, through the desert until they got to Interstate-8.
Miguel and Rodolfo were both booked into the Pinal County Jail for Possession of Marijuana for Sale, Transportation of Marijuana and Possession of Marijuana. The vehicle they were driving, the marijuana, the scanner and their cell phones were all seized as evidence.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “The cartels from Mexico continue to push their drug and human loads through Pinal County, yet our deputies continue to intercept them. This is another reminder of how insecure our southern border with Mexico truly is.”