Montana Highway Patrol arrested two people and seized almost 29 pounds of meth during a traffic stop in Custer County in 2017, according to a Thursday press release from the Montana Department of Justice.
The stop, which happened Nov. 8, 2017, resulted in a seizure of meth and marijuana, two arrests, and nine federal indictments disbanding a drug smuggling ring from California to North Dakota.
John Barnes, a spokesperson for MHP, said it was one of the largest seizures Montana has seen. According to MHP reports, in 2017 almost 69 pounds of meth was seized statewide. That means this one traffic stop accounted for more than 40 percent of the meth seized in the state that year.
The number of illegal drug arrests increased 547 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to reports from MHP.
Information on the ongoing investigation was not released until Thursday to "preserve the integrity" of the investigation and criminal proceedings, according to the press release.
According to the MHP press release:
On Nov. 8 2017, an MHP criminal interdiction trooper stopped a Nissan Maxima in Custer County for a traffic violation. Suspicious of criminal activity, the Trooper used a K-9 and determined there were illegal drugs inside the car.
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After receiving a search warrant, almost 29 pounds of meth and 6 pounds of marijuana were found inside the car. The drugs were being smuggled from California to Belcourt, North Dakota.
Cynthia Lozano, 25, and Justin Sua, 21, both from California, were arrested and taken to the Custer County Detention Facility.
Lozano was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by five years’ probation in U.S. Federal Court, and is at a federal prison in Northern California. Sua was convicted in Custer County on related charges.
Further investigations from the Montana Drug Enforcement Agency and authorities in California and North Dakota led to six federal prosecutions in California, including the ringleader, who was running the operation from prison.
Multiple additional pounds of meth were seized in North Dakota, and three people in North Dakota were federally prosecuted.
“We were pleased with the outcome given the expansive and complex nature of the case and circumstances surrounding it,” MHP Lieutenant Jim Sanderson said of the case.
Specifics of the case are still confidential and could be used for ongoing or future investigations, Barnes said.