Two traffic stops in Campbell County result in drug charges

By: 
The Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper pulled over two cars in two days for speeding in Campbell County and heard a similar story each time: They had just been at a concert on the West Coast and were heading back to their homes in the Midwest.
That would have been fine, except in both cases Trooper Eric Spring has reason to suspect that there was marijuana in the cars, which resulted in the arrest of three people on felony charges.
The cases aren’t related except by circumstance. But it does point to something that law enforcement officers are seeing more and more: Marijuana obtained from states where it is legal being taken to and through states where it is still illegal.
“It’s not infrequent that we get loads that come from source states … headed to the greater Midwest area,” said Chris McDonald with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in Gillette. That office was called to investigate those arrested in Gillette on April 27-28.
“This time of year is kind of the harvest season in Oregon, Washington and California so we have a tendency to get more interdictions this time of year, earlier to mid-spring,” McDonald said.
The amount of marijuana in these two cases is relatively small compared to an 800-pound load confiscated not long ago and 75 pounds found in Evanston on April 27, but it shows that the Highway Patrol is alert, McDonald said.
“The troopers do a great job of interdiction,” he added.
Spring pulled over a Nissan driven by a Minnesota woman about 27 miles south of Gillette on Highway 50 on April 27. He clocked the car at 80 mph, which the woman said she thought was the speed limit. He told her he was unaware of any two-lane roads in the country that had a speed limit of 80 mph, according to court documents.
As they spoke, he noticed two red plastic bags in the back seat, one of which showed a marijuana leaf.
The woman and her passenger, Olajawa Kupree Alston, 32, also of Minnesota, said they had driven from St. Paul to California for a Coachella music festival but otherwise, their stories didn’t match. She said they’d stopped in Las Vegas on the way there and won a little money, but he said they’d visited nowhere but Disneyland. She said they’d only gone to their hotel, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
A search of the car turned up several edible marijuana products and marijuana in different forms of packaging that weighed a total of about 23 ounces with packaging. Alston said he bought about 2 ounces for his cousin in Minnesota, the affidavit says.
It also turned up $8,930 in cash held together with a rubber band in the glove box, which Alston said first was his money, then said was his that they’d been saving. An amphetamine pill was found in the passenger area in a prescription bottle with a different woman’s name on it.
In their luggage, troopers also found a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun that had been stolen in the St. Paul, Minnesota area. Alston said the gun wasn’t his. The woman wouldn’t claim it, according to court documents.
Alston, a convicted felon on probation, was charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana and a misdemeanor count of possession of Adderall. The woman was charged with misdemeanor possession.
The next day, Spring pulled over a Mazda going 83 mph on Interstate 90 about 10 miles east of Gillette. He smelled marijuana in the car and on the driver, Mason Ray Venard-Torrez, 19.
The man denied smoking marijuana earlier, but his passenger, Hunter Cole Gillespie, 23, said that they had smoked daily when they were in Seattle, Washington, where both said they had gone from Kansas to attend an Amigos and Snoop Dog concert, according to court documents.
The trooper also asked both about what route they intended to take to get back to Kansas. Venard-Torrez said they were going to go down through Casper and then to Nebraska and eventually to Kansas. Gillespie said they planned to travel to Interstate 29 and then south to Interstate 70.
A search of their car turned up a duffel bag with several vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana weighing about 8.5 pounds, according to an affidavit. The two men also turned over a Glock .40-caliber handgun of Gillespie’s.
They both were charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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