The Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office has discovered a Ford Crown Victoria sedan outfitted as a law enforcement vehicle that investigators believe was used by drug smugglers to conduct traffic stops, according to the agency.
"Drug and human trafficking is a crime my deputies deal with on a daily basis," according to Sheriff Paul Babeu. "This case shows how those responsible for drug and human trafficking are attempting to conduct their business under the guise of law enforcement."
A patrol deputy discovered the vehicle shortly after 10 p.m. on Dec. 11 along Interstate 8 in Vekol Valley. The deputy discovered a white Ford Crown Vic stuck in loose dirt with a partially open trunk and lowered rear passenger windows.
A tan Ford Taurus was also found about 20 feet in front of the Ford that apparently had crashed into barbed wire fencing. Both vehicles contained packaged bales of marijuana and occupants had fled the scene, according to Tim Gaffney, the Pinal County Sheriff's spokesman.
The Crown Victoria had been outfitted to represent a law enforcement vehicle. The vehicle had red and blue strobe lights, orange and white strobe lights, a siren, spotlight and front push bar.
Deputies also found a black ski mask and black hoodie sweater next to the driver's seat that leads agency investigators to believe this was an attempted theft of the marijuana in the Ford Taurus by a "rip crew."
According to a release, it appears the Crown Victoria had attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the Taurus, which veered off the road and hit the fence. The occupants apparently then fled. Some of the marijuana had already been loaded from the Taurus into the Crown Victoria.
The engines for both vehicles were still running when deputies discovered the vehicles. Fourteen bales of marijuana were recovered, which weighed a total of 319 pounds. The seized marijuana carries a street value of $159,500.