Alleged drug runners rolling along a stretch of the Ohio Turnpike near Toledo Express Airport keep getting caught by Ohio Highway Patrol troopers.
Three Washington men were arraigned yesterday in Maumee Municipal Court after troopers found they had 165 pounds of marijuana worth $750,000. The arrest is the seventh significant bust on that stretch of roadway since Dec. 20.
Wednesday's seizure added to the patrol's seizures of illicit drugs, which have reached nearly $8 million this year. In 2001, the patrol seized nearly $47.2 million worth of drugs.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of seizures” statewide, patrol Lt. Gary Lewis said yesterday from Columbus.
The stops go beyond the initial infraction that results in the traffic stop, he said. “A lot of that comes with experience.”
About 5:30 p.m., troopers with the patrol's Findlay drug team stopped a rented 2002 Mitsubishi driven by Andy Au, 25, for a marked-lane violation on the turnpike between Crissey and Albon roads. Dung Tri Nguyen, 42, was riding in the vehicle, troopers said.
Moments later, troopers stopped a 2001 Ford Ranger pickup truck driven by Can Le Quang, 38, for a following too closely. Troopers connected the three men and used a drug-sniffing canine that alerted on the pickup truck.
Troopers found eight large plastic bags of marijuana in the bed area.
Mr. Au and Mr. Nguyen were charged with conspiracy to possess marijuana. Mr. Quang was charged with second-degree drug trafficking and drug abuse.
The men all have bonds of $75,000 and have a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 28.
For the year, the patrol has seized 23 pounds of magic mushrooms, which were found in Lucas County, 11/2 pounds of heroin, about 2,037 pounds of marijuana, and 57.2 pounds of cocaine. Earlier this month, troopers seized $600,000 worth of cocaine from three California residents.
In 2001, the patrol seized 3,278 pounds of marijuana, 12 ounces of heroin, and 636 pounds of cocaine. “It's good legal police work,” the lieutenant said.