(STL.News) – A California man was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison today after law enforcement officers found eight pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a spare tire of the rental vehicle he was driving, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Manuel Paz Sanchez, Jr., 32, of Sacramento, CA, pleaded guilty in May to possession with intent to distribute meth.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters sentenced Sanchez to 15 years and eight months in prison and to five years of supervised release.
The prosecution said in court records that a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped a Ford sedan that Sanchez was driving on Dec. 12, 2017 near Columbus. Sanchez, the sole occupant, had rented the vehicle three days earlier in Sacramento and told the trooper he was driving to Bismarck, N.D. from Idaho, where he had been visiting family. Sanchez planned to fly back to California from Bismarck. The trooper found Sanchez’s story suspicious and asked permission to search the vehicle. Sanchez consented.
Law enforcement officers found in the car a tire repair kit, which they thought was unusual for a rental vehicle. Officers removed the spare tire from the trunk and the spare appeared to be deflated. Officers took the spare to a repair shop in Columbus, where the tire was removed from the rim. Inside the tire were six, vacuum-sealed packages containing approximately 8.3 pounds, or about 30,000 doses, of meth.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Godfrey prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.