A California man accused of having eight pounds of meth in spare tire, and telling officers he had been visiting Yogi Bear in Yellowstone National Park, denied federal meth charges on Tuesday.
Manuel Paz Sanchez Jr., 31, of Sacramento, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute meth. Sanchez previously had been charged by a criminal complaint.
Sanchez was arrested on Dec. 12 near Columbus after a Montana Highway Patrol trooper pulled over Sanchez’s vehicle, a rental car, for following too closely while eastbound on Interstate 90.
Sanchez’s story about where he’d been and where he was going raised suspicions with the trooper. Sanchez also told a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer who arrived at the scene that he was coming from Yellowstone National Park “where he was visiting Yogi Bear,” court records said.
Sanchez consented to a search of the vehicle. The search ultimately led to officers finding six vacuum-sealed packages containing meth in the spare tire. A test in Billings found the packages contained about eight pounds of meth.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan denied a defense request for Sanchez’s release pending trial saying there were no conditions that could be imposed that could ensure the public’s safety and that Sanchez had no ties to Montana.
If convicted, Sanchez faces a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.