827 pounds of cocaine seized on I-40

Thursday, July 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 led to the seizure of 827 pounds of cocaine with a wholesale value of $50 million, authorities said.

The seizure from a motor home in western Oklahoma was by far the largest ever by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Lt. Pete Norwood said. It compared with 430 pounds of cocaine recovered by the OHP in all of 2000, he said.

A man and a woman from California were taken into custody, but the OHP would not release their identify.

``These are big players,'' Norwood said. ``Someone big and powerful trusted them to carry 827 pounds of cocaine.''

He said the street value of the drug would exceed $1 billion.

Eighteen boxes of the contraband, found in hidden compartments in the motor home, were transported in an unmarked vehicle to a state police training facility in Oklahoma City, where it will be kept as evidence.

Parcels of the cocaine were double-wrapped in plastic and axel grease. At least some of the parcels, displayed to reporters, contained names and addresses.

``Maybe that is where they were going to be taken,'' Norwood said. ``We don't know that, but I'm sure we'll ask.''

He said specially trained dogs were used in locating the cocaine. He said no weapons were found in the vehicle.

Lt. Chris West of the OHP public information office said the two unidentified suspects were in state custody and were being questioned at the Elk City Police Department.

West said the motor home was stopped on I-40 near Elk City, about 35 miles east of the Texas border and 120 miles west of Oklahoma City.

He said there was an early report the couple were believed to be headed for Tennessee.

The FBI and federal drug enforcement officers reportedly have joined the investigation.

``We're not releasing the identities because the investigation is continuing,'' West said. ``They'll probably be incarcerated within the next couple of days.''

The drugs were seized after a trooper assigned to a special drug unit noticed a motor home making an unsafe lane change at 5:22 a.m., Norwood said. He said the vehicle was traveling 53 mph in a 70 mph zone.

The name of the trooper was not released.