A drug dog named Rocky may have delivered a knockout punch to a Utah man who, deputies say, was crossing Nebraska in a camper stuffed with about a ton of marijuana — 1,940 pounds, to be exact.
A member of the drug team at the Douglas County sheriff's office made a routine stop of a pickup truck, topped with a camper, heading eastbound in Omaha, Neb., on Interstate 80, Wednesday, when the record bust was made, Marty Bilek, chief deputy for the sheriff's office, told ABC News.
The driver, Stanley L. Suojanen, 28, appeared nervous, Bilek said, and said "no" when the deputy asked for permission to search his vehicle. At that point, the deputy fetched Rocky, his drug dog, and circled the vehicle.
Rocky, a Belgian Malinois, did not bark frantically at the camper, but, instead, did what he was trained to do — sit down and quietly stare at the vehicle. "If the dog is on to something, that's it," Bilek said.
Upon opening the back door to the camper, the officer found 93 bales of marijuana, most wrapped tightly in green plastic, and some wrapped like Christmas presents. The drugs had an estimated street value of about $3 million, Bilek said.
"We're going to say without hesitation that this is the largest seizure of marijuana of the history of the Douglas County sheriff's office," Bilek said. "And it's one of the largest in the state of Nebraska, but there's not exactly a Guinness Book of World Records for drug seizures."
Suojanen was charged with intent to deliver marijuana, a class 3 felony in Nebraska, punishable by one to 20 years in prison, and a $25,000 fine. He is being held by Douglas County officials and will face charges in state or federal court, depending upon the decision of prosecutors.
Bilek called the Interstate 80 corridor in Nebraska "a drug pipeline," with narcotics coming from California or the Mexican border, through Nebraska, toward eastern destinations.
The vehicle will likely be turned over to the bank while the marijuana, except for a small amount required by prosecutors for evidence, will be burned, Bilek said.
If there was any money of note, he added, the sheriff's office would confiscate it. But the vehicle had an easterly destination, and was, therefore, likely carrying crop, not cash.
"The drugs are in the eastbound cars, the proceeds are heading west," he said.