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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Duo accused of transporting $9M in cocaine

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Troopers stack on a Ford Excursion they stopped along the turnpike the 90 kilos of cocaine they allegedly found inside it. Troopers stack on a Ford Excursion they stopped along the turnpike the 90 kilos of cocaine they allegedly found inside it.
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After the Ohio Highway Patrol's biggest drug bust of the year, two people accused of trafficking nearly 200 pounds of cocaine on the Ohio Turnpike were arraigned yesterday in Maumee Municipal Court.

Erika Sanchez-Lopez, 23, of Mexico was driving a 2000 Ford Excursion eastbound on the Ohio Turnpike in Maumee about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday when a trooper stopped the vehicle for failing to have a license plate light, authorities said.

A consensual search found almost 200 pounds of cocaine valued at $9 million in a hidden compartment in the vehicle. The compartment was between the vehicle's second and third rows of seating, the patrol said.

"It's certainly one of the largest amounts of drugs we've ever found," Lt. Rick Zwayer, a patrol spokesman in Columbus, said.

Ms. Sanchez-Lopez and her passenger, Reuben Marin, 45, of Tucson, each was charged with drug trafficking, possession of cocaine, and possession of criminal tools.

Authorities believe the suspects may have been traveling from Chicago to New York, Lieutenant Zwayer said.

If convicted, each suspect could face up to 21 years in prison and a maximum fine of $42,500.

Both suspects are being held in the Lucas County jail. The bond for each was set at $2 million.

This is the fourth time in 10 days that troopers found drugs in vehicles traveling eastbound on the turnpike.

On Monday, troopers arrested a Connecticut man on the turnpike in Springfield Township after pulling him over for a marked-lanes violation. He was carrying $500,000 worth of suspected powder cocaine in his vehicle.

In two stops last week, troopers confiscated $900,000 worth of powder cocaine and $272,000 worth of suspected heroin. Lieutenant Zwayer said the highway patrol has no evidence that any of the recent busts are related.

Since 1999, Lucas County has been on a federal list of high-intensity drug-trafficking areas.

Six additional counties - Fairfield and Franklin in central Ohio and Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Warren in southwest Ohio - are being added to the list.

Counties that are on the list qualify to receive $633,000 in federal funding for law enforcement.

Contact Rachel Zinn at:

rzinn@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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