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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Auto Workers Find 150 Pouns Of Weed Stashed In Gas Tank

ST. PAUL -- A couple from Washington state faces charges after auto workers found more than 150 pounds of marijuana in their pickup's jerry-rigged gas tank and alerted police.

The 48-year-old man and 62-year-old woman were being held in the Ramsey County jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. They told investigators they were driving from Yakima, Wash., to Chicago, according to Kent Bailey, acting agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Twin Cities office.

"Their bad luck is their vehicle had some fuel problems and they ended up taking it into a Midas Shop," Bailey said.

He said the fuel problems might have been caused by some marijuana getting loose in the tank. Also, the tank couldn't hold much gas, so the pair might have had to fuel up every 100 miles or so.

At the auto shop on the East Side, where the couple stopped Monday, mechanic Daniel Ries noticed the truck had a modified gas tank with fresh weld marks. When the two were told the tank needed to be replaced, they were "adamant" that the repair wasn't needed, Bailey said. Eventually, they relented but insisted that the pickup's old tank be saved.

Workers, who became suspicious and called police, found that the gas tank had been converted into two compartments; one contained fuel while the other had 157 pounds of marijuana worth about $157,000, Bailey said.

Bailey credited Ries for recognizing something was suspicious. "That's exactly what we need, because we don't have enough law enforcement to cover every corner," he said. "It was absolutely sharp thinking."

Using the phone number the duo left with Midas, investigators tracked them to the Hastings Inn and arrested them. They found 700,000 Mexican pesos, equivalent to about $64,000.

Associated Press

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