A traffic stop turned into a large drug bust when deputies uncovered numerous cocaine packages and $1.4 million in cash in secret compartments of a truck early Thursday morning, April 12, off of Ga. Highway 138 and Interstate 20.
Shortly before 7:30 a.m., deputies pulled over a 1999 Peterbuilt tractor trailer car hauler at the parking lot outside Home Depot for having a defective rear passenger side brake light, according to a Rockdale County Sheriff's Office report.
The passenger, identified as Andres Gutierrez, 38, of Alton, Ga., told deputies that he and his brother were going to an auto auction in Loganville to purchase cars to sell in Mexico.
"The entire time he was talking to me, his hands were shaking uncontrollably as if he were nervous," wrote the reporting deputy. "He also would not make eye contact with me and kept looking away as he spoke."
The driver, identified as Rolando Gutierrez-Reyes, 43, of Edinurg, Tex., also told deputies they were going to an auto auction in Loganville.
The deputies asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle and asked to search it, which the passenger allowed, according to the report.
A K-9 search dog performed a free-air sniff test and made an indication at the side of the truck's sleeper.
When deputies searched the sleeper, they saw the screws in the top interior part were silver and had tool marks on them whereas the screws in the bottom part of the sleeper were black and had no tool marks on them. There was also a cordless power drill that fit the silver screws.
They also noticed there was fresh black paint on the roof of the sleeper when they removed four screws. When they pulled back the interior, they saw there was a false compartment.
In the false compartment, deputies found numerous black packages of $20 bills with the number "20" written on them.
Gutierrez and Gutierrez-Reyes were arrested and the truck taken back to RCSO headquarters to be searched more securely.
Deputies also found another secret compartment with 4.4 pounds of cocaine, which was field tested, and more packages of cash.
The suspects were charged with trafficking cocaine and possession of a vehicle with a false compartment. Gutierrez-Reyes, as the driver, also faces a defective equipment charge.
Money seized in drug busts and arrests can be used by the law enforcement agency for non-budgetary law enforcement items, said Sheriff Jeff Wigington.
"It's very restricted," Wigington said. "It has to go for law enforcement purposes only. It can't take the place of regular budgetary money."
The process of seizing crime related money can take years going through court before funds can be spent, said Investigator Michael Camp. Seized funds have been used in the past to purchase items such as laptops and cameras for RCSO investigators and computer servers for disaster response personnel.
Federal agents and the RCSO's deputy assigned with the Drug Enforcement Agency in Atlanta are assisting with the processing of the seizure paperwork. The DEA typically handles the destruction of seized drugs, said Wigington.