Investigators: $1 million in heroin found in false case

By Carolyn Cole
Published on September 13, 2008

Oklahoma drug investigators found a 10-pound brick of what they allege to be heroin hidden in a false compartment of a car battery in a vehicle traveling on Interstate 40 through Canadian County last week.

If it is heroin, the brick would have a street value of $1 million, said Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Police arrested Luis Machuca, 33, of Sunland, Calif., Monday afternoon on felony drug trafficking charges after a traffic stop in far western Canadian County.

He was taken to the Canadian County Jail where he was later released on $25,000 bail.

Woodward said the westbound vehicle was stopped by the agency’s K-9 Highway Interdiction Unit, which is focused on finding drug traffickers on Oklahoma’s major highways.

During the traffic stop, Woodward said officers became concerned after the driver seemed confused about where he was driving. When police asked to search the vehicle, Woodward said the man told them he had nothing to hide.

When they opened the car’s hood, police noticed a larger than usual battery in the engine compartment — one normally used in a sports utility vehicle or large truck, he said. Officers looked more closely and found the battery casing had been cut and glued back together.

At the bottom of the casing, he said police found another compartment and the alleged heroin.
While it isn’t the largest drug bust in Oklahoma history, Woodward said finding a 10-pound stash of the drug is unusual.

He said usually drug traffickers would break the substance into 1-kilogram packages and scatter them in cars across the country because heroin is so valuable. A pound of heroin has a street value of between $80,000 and $120,000, he said.

Woodward estimated about 95 percent of illegal drugs in the United States come into the country through El Paso, Texas, or across the border at Tijuana, Mexico, near California. Traffickers then drive the drugs across country, Woodward said, with many passing through Oklahoma on interstates 35 or 40.

“Just because of our location our interstates are very important to drug trafficking,” he said.
Because of the substance’s color, Woodward said investigators believe it originated in southeast Asia and isn’t certain the material was destined for Oklahoma. Cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine are more common in Oklahoma, he said, while heroin is used more often on the east coast.

So far, Woodward said Machuca hasn’t given investigators information regarding where the substance came from or where it was headed. He said the man is frightened.

“It’s understandable because of these cartels coming after them and their families,” Woodward said.

Drug enforcement officers are more concerned about getting information about the source of the drugs and the final destination so officials can arrest people in power in these cartels, he said, and shut them down.

“Most of these drivers are paid to drive these vehicles from point A to B,” Woodward said. “Our focus isn’t that shipment, it’s where is it going.”

Post new comment

Special Sections