CLEARFIELD – A preliminary hearing was held for two men arrested on Interstate 80 for possession of about 28 kilograms of cocaine. The value of the drugs is around $3.5 million.
One of the accused, Arnulfo Perez Uresti, translated to his alleged accomplice, Hugo Francisco Leal Flores. The hearing was slow at times to give Uresti time to translate.
Both men are charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. During the hearing it was indicated that Flores was the son of the owner of the trucking company that Uresti was working for.
According to testimony Pennsylvania state trooper Brett Hanlon, a stop was initiated on I-80 on Oct. 18 because he observed an obstructed license plate on a flatbed truck as well as a loose tiedown strap.
Hanlon said that before he could get out of his patrol car, the driver of the vehicle, Arnulfo Perez Uresti, appeared at the back of his truck with all of his vital paperwork. Hanlon said nothing like that had ever happened in his 11-plus years as a state trooper.
During the stop it was related to Hanlon by Uresti that Uresti had a passenger who was neither a co-driver nor was he permitted to be in the truck. Hanlon said he gave Uresti a warning and told him he was free to leave. Hanlon then asked some questions of Uresti, focusing on his route and the load he was carrying. Hanlon noted during the hearing that Uresti and Flores were coming from a border town, Browsville, Texas, and had stopped over in Chicago and were on their way to Newark, New Jersey.
Hanlon noted that the cities were “target cities” and they aroused suspicion. Hanlon asked why Uresti was taking steel coils to New Jersey and returning with the same items. Hanlon indicated that Uresti answered he did not know and appeared nervous. Hanlon asked if there was any drugs, weapons or large amounts of cash in the truck, and was told there was not.
Hanlon also pointed out that the trucking company Uresti worked for had a high Department of Transportation number, another indicator of suspicious activity, coupled with other indicators.
At one point in the hearing, because of the time it was taking for statements to be translated, the affidavit of probable cause was entered into evidence, stipulating as to what Hanlon would be testifying to. The accused were given time to review the affidavit before testimony continued.
Eventually Hanlon received consent to search the vehicle. Hanlon’s K-9 partner Brenda assisted in the search, but did not indicate as the to the presence of drugs. While Brenda did not find anything, Hanlon did. Underneath a bunk with a bad pneumatic, were three separate compartments. In the center compartment were tools and other heavy items. Under the those items were several floor mats. Under the mats was a large black lid covering the floor. Under the lid were packages that Hanlon recognized as kilogram packages of narcotics.
Flores and Uresti were taken into custody at this point and the vehicle was impounded. After a search warrant was obtained, 26 kilograms of cocaine was found. Hanlon said that while at the state police barracks, Flores indicated to him where additional packages of cocaine were locate. Police searched and found two additional packages of cocaine.
Both men are being held in Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $500,000 straight bail. It had been indicated in the past that the federal government was going to pick the case up, and First Assistant District Attorney F. Cortez “Chip” Bell III said they still might. Bell noted that the commonwealth will go through with their case at this time.
Defense attorney Steve Jarrett represented both Uresti and Flores during the hearing, though only Uresti is Jarrett’s client. Jarrett was given permission by Flores’ counsel, Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman and Flores to represent Flores for the matter of the hearing.