OSP uncovers 13 pounds of cocaine in stop

An early morning traffic stop on Friday led Oregon State Police troopers to 13 pounds of cocaine hidden in a vehicle just south of Ashland.

At 4:40 a.m. Friday, a trooper stopped a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe displaying Washington state license plates for speeding on Interstate 5 near milepost 13.

During the stop, troopers and a drug-sniffing dog searched the car and found 6 kilograms of cocaine (approximately 13.2 pounds) wrapped in 1-kilo bundles hidden in the car.

The estimated wholesale value of the cocaine is about $150,000, but it would be much higher after the drug was cut with other substances and repackaged on the street, OSP Lt. Kelly Collins said.

"This cocaine could sell for close to half-a-million dollars after it reaches the street dealers," Collins said.

Arrested were Ruben Ramirez-Ventura, 24, of Renton, Wash., and Marisol Perez-Almonte, 28, of Seattle on charges of delivery of cocaine and possession of cocaine.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have placed a federal hold on Ramirez-Ventura and Perez-Almonte on the suspicion they are in the country illegally. They were lodged in the Jackson County Jail without bail.

"This was a large drug bust for us," Collins said. "We'd like to have more of these in the future."

Collins said OSP's recent hiring pushes have bolstered their ranks enough to where troopers can focus on drug interdiction and not just run from one traffic accident to another.

"It's nice to have the back-up you need to make these large drug stops," Collins said. "Before we rarely had time to really look for drugs on the interstate."

Collins, a 25-year veteran with OSP, said the agency has seized more hard drugs such as cocaine over the past two years simply because there now are more troopers on the road.

"I don't think there is necessarily more drugs on the interstate, it's just that we now have the manpower to do something about it," Collins said. "There's always been a lot of drugs coming up and down Interstate 5."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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