Thanksgiving cocaine bust on I-90

By Sarah Pridgeon

A California man who was pulled over for speeding on November 24 was subsequently arrested for possession of a controlled substance after 29 kilos of cocaine were discovered in his vehicle. A second count of possession with intent to deliver was added after the driver claimed to be transporting the car he was driving from Los Angeles to Chicago.

The preliminary hearing on December 5 was waived by the suspect’s attorney, Nicholas Carter. Tamayo pled not guilty at his arraignment on December 14; the pre-trial will take place on February 22 at 1 p.m. and bail has been set at $250,000.

The suspect, identified as Luis Tamayo, was observed at 4:20 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, traveling at 86 mph on Interstate 90 in a white Dodge Nitro. He was pulled over by Highway Patrolman Stephen Muller, who initially became suspicious on noticing that all four windows were rolled down and a “strong, pungent chemical odor” was emanating from inside the vehicle.

Muller also observed that the suspect’s hand was shaking “excessively” as he handed over his license and tax form, and that his carotid artery was pulsing and his breathing was heavy and fast. Tamayo was reportedly reluctant to maintain eye contact, “continually looking ahead,” and persistently clenched his vehicle key between his legs after removing it from the ignition.

Tamayo was not the stated owner of the vehicle on the tax and license forms, but claimed the car belonged to his friend “Johnny,” for whom he was doing a favor by driving it from Los Angeles to Chicago. This name not matching the documents either, Tamayo went on to state that he did not know “Johnny’s” last name and that the vehicle belonged to his friend’s father.

The suspect is reported to have made multiple comments to the effect that he wished he hadn’t done “this” and appeared “overly nervous,” according to Muller’s statement. When asked why, he is said to have responded that he had just been doing a favor and would now have to return to court to pay the speeding ticket.

According to Muller’s report, his suspicions were further raised by the “lived-in look” of the vehicle. Visible items inside the car included strewn food wrappers and trash, a box of “Stay Awake” pills, a wrinkled shirt hanging behind the driver’s seat with the tags still attached, a single small suitcase and an open bag of tools in the back seat.

Tamayo is reported to have commented, while Muller wrote a citation for no insurance, that the officers must be “used to the cold.” When told he could roll up the windows and turn the heater on, he responded that he thought the police didn’t like people “messing with cars on a stop.”

K9 Trooper Underberg arrived at the scene shortly after 5 p.m. and reported that his K9 had alerted to the odor of a controlled substance. A probably cause search was executed while Tamayo waited in the patrol car.

Evidence of recent activity was found in the rear cargo compartment, including fresh marks in the dust, a misaligned crank and a fresh palm mark, showing that the spare tire had recently been lowered. A bolt with fresh tool marks was also found on the bottom side of the cargo compartment and the fuel evaporator was removed to expose a panel cut into the frame.

When removed, this revealed a compartment containing “multiple, kilo-sized, cellophane-wrapped packages of what was suspected to be a controlled substance,” taped and tied together with twine. The packages “field tested presumptive positive for cocaine” and all evidence was seized and turned over to the Gillette Department of Criminal Investigation.

Tamayo lists his occupation as “handyman,” although he claims to have been “not working” since 2002 and is on welfare. He has a wife and 12-year-old son and a mailing address in California.