These "bricks" of marijuana were confiscated Monday night by undercover officers of the Wilson County Sheriff's Department.
Zack Owensby/Wilson PostBy JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post
Undercover officers brought in 70 pounds of “high-grade Mexican marijuana” in a drug buy Monday night that involved a chase and accident.
The bust was announced during a press conference Tuesday at the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department by Sheriff Terry Ashe and Lebanon Commissioner of Public Safety Billy Weeks.
Ashe described the bricks of the drug as “high-grade Mexican marijuana” and said the bust occurred on Highway 141 at the Trousdale-Wilson County line. There was a chase, he said, between the suspects, four of them, and authorities which resulted in a wreck. One of the suspects got away, but authorities arrested the other three.
The three suspects, Mexican nationals, Ashe said, have been identified as Hector Miguel Nieves-Rios, 26, of Wilburn Hollow Road, Carthage; Timoteo Santiago, 43, of Las Vegas, N.M.; and Francisco Reyes, 33, of Tater Peeler Road, Lebanon.
Ashe and Weeks said they hope to take the case to Federal court which, if convicted, could result in a life sentence.
These guys have gang ties,” Ashe said, declining to identify the gangs in which the three men are believed to be involved.
Both lawmen praised the Wilson County Violent Crimes and Narcotics Task Force which infiltrated a drug smuggling organization suspected of trafficking narcotics from the Texas/Mexico border to the Middle Tennessee area, specifically the Wilson and Trousdale County areas.
An undercover officer met with one of the suspected traffickers and purchased some marijuana a few weeks ago. The officer then met two of the suspects on Monday to purchase 50 pounds of marijuana. The drug was then delivered to the undercover officer and the suspects were taken into custody.
Task Force officers recovered an additional 20 pounds of marijuana and cocaine from their residence.
The officers also discovered the vehicle used to transport the narcotics from Texas, and likely from Mexico, too, Ashe said.
The 1996 Ford F-150 pickup truck had a hidden compartment cut into it behind the back window and hidden by a large tool box that could hold hundreds of pounds of drugs without being during a normal inspection.
“They are risking their lives every day,” Ashe said, referring to the officers on the Task Force. He added, “I am getting concerned for them.”
Weeks also praised the officers, telling members of the media that they should be the ones standing before the cameras but could not because they work undercover.
The marijuana was packed in what are known as bricks, that is, it is compressed into the shape of a brick. It was wrapped in electrician’s tape, grease and plastic.
“That’s how it comes from Mexico,” Weeks said, unless it is transported in a larger vehicle.
Ashe said Monday night’s drug bust was part of a long-running investigation involving local law enforcement and agents with the FBI.
“We teamed up year ago,” he said, “this is a continuation.”
Also confiscated in the bust were nine rifles and shotguns, including three that were missing their stocks. Ashe said authorities were concerned those particular weapons could be used in a booby trap to potentially harm officers or others.
“It’s a dangerous job,” Ashe said, especially as gangs move out of larger cities such as Nashville and into more rural areas. He identified gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Bloods, Crips and MS 13 as having moved into Wilson County.
“That’s why we joined with the FBI,” he said, adding that many illegal aliens are gang members, as well.
The drug bust is the second large one in about two weeks with the first occurring late March 10-11 which resulted in the confiscation of marijuana, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, two handguns and about $160,000 in cash. That drug bust was also gang-related.
“I feel like in the last two weeks we’ve taken down as much as some do in a year,” Weeks said, referring to the size of Lebanon and Wilson County as compared to some other counties in the state.
Ashe said Tennessee was in a unique location regarding drug trafficking. The state borders eight other states. Put another way, he said 42 counties out of 95 in Tennessee border the eight states, and with major roadways running through Tennessee such as Interstate 40, Highways 70, 109 and 231 and others, it is an attractive area for drug traffickers.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.