Man arrested after traffic stop uncovers 10 pounds of heroin

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 | 6:20 p.m.

Unsafely switching lanes on a highway north of Las Vegas led to a motorist’s traffic stop this week. His trembling hands signaled a red flag, and about 10 pounds of heroin hidden in his car landed him in jail, according to the office of the U.S. attorney for the district of Nevada.

Mario Alberto Bojorquez-Manrique, who was arrested after being pulled over about 5 p.m. Monday on northbound U.S. 93 — mile marker 54 — was indicted Wednesday on one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, officials said.

The Mexican national from Sinaloa told authorities that he was trying to earn money to pay off the “coyote” who smuggled him into the U.S., according to his criminal complaint. His $7,000 debt had accrued interest, and Bojorquez-Manrique’s handlers agreed to lower the fee if he’d transport drugs, he said.

The Arizona-to-Washington state trip would’ve netted him $1,000, the complaint said. Fearing retaliation against him or his family, Bojorquez-Manrique, 27, refused to further discuss the trafficking.

A Nevada Highway Patrol trooper trained to identify drug mules did that when she spotted a black Chevrolet hatchback with California plates failing to signal a lane change about a mile in front of her, the complaint said.

She pulled the car over after a second unsafe lane switch. Immediately, Bojorquez-Manrique became “nervous and shaky,” according to the complaint. Soon, the signs she’d been trained to look for emerged: the recently acquired car; his route; the lack of an itinerary and air fresheners.

Bojorquez-Manrique was wearing a jacket and pants despite the 100-degree weather, the complaint said. A ledger in the car suggested that the suspect had conducted multiple trips.

Troopers told Bojorquez-Manrique he was getting a warning in lieu of a traffic ticket, and he remained nervous, and they dug further, the complaint said.

A K-9 sniffed the drugs, which were found under the hood near the windshield: six foil-wrapped packages that contained 9.6 pounds of heroin could land him in prison for life if he’s convicted.