SIKESTON - Marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $94,000 was confiscated and three people are in custody following a traffic stop.
The incident began with a routine traffic stop by Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Shane Stewart at about 3 p.m. Wednesday. According to Kevin Glaser, a sergeant with the Patrol and supervisor of the SEMO Drug Task Force, Stewart had observed a car driving too fast through a construction zone at the Miner-Sikeston overpass.
During the stop the officer became suspicious of the driver and passenger's behavior, Glaser said, adding the pair's statements on their destination were also inconsistent. After being given consent to search the vehicle by the driver, officers located 59 pounds of marijuana hidden in baggage stored in the trunk and passenger area of the vehicle.
Arrested were the driver, Jose Villagomez, 34, of Chicago, Ill., and a passenger, Tania Cortez, 38, of El Paso, Texas. Cortez's 10-month-old child was also traveling with the pair.
Villagomez and Cortez were charged in Scott County Associate Court with possession of marijuana with intent and endangering the welfare of a child.
Glaser said the SEMO Drug Task Force and the Patrol's Drug Interdiction Team continued the investigation and determined the marijuana was being brought from the El Paso, Texas, area to Bloomington, Ill.
Through their efforts a third person, Robert Charles Howard, 37, of Bloomington, Ill., was arrested Friday. He is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Noting that while the amount of marijuana confiscated is not the largest made by the Highway Patrol in the area, Glaser called it "probably one of the larger seizures in a while recovered from a passenger vehicle." He estimated the street value of the marijuana once distributed to be $100 -$120 an ounce.
Glaser praised the efforts of the Patrol's Interdiction Team which led to the arrests.