What are the chances of two men who say they were carrying a large amount of cash and transporting marijuana being pulled over twice by police on the same day on interstate highways in New Mexico…?
At the I-40 stop by a State Police officer, the men in the green 1995 Nissan sedan with Arizona plates claimed have to been hauling marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. They said they’d already been stopped a few hours earlier by another officer, hundreds of miles northeast, on Interstate 25 near the New Mexico/Colorado border.
That officer, they said, confiscated their marijuana and seized more than $10,000 from them without giving them a receipt or issuing a citation. But he did give them “$600 back in order to pay for their travel expenses on their way back to Arizona,” says an FBI statement filed in federal court.
The two men described the officer who took their pot and money as driving a “new, white Ford Explorer with blue writing on the side” and that the officer “had mentioned something about a DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Administration) investigation…”
After that, the FBI and State Police started an undercover investigation…Vidal Sandoval, of Cimarron, was arrested without incident on March 13 at the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office in Raton by FBI agents and State Police officers. His charge, previously reported as aiding and abetting a drug trafficking crime, is actually attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, online court records show…
On Dec. 15, two undercover agents from the FBI and State Police, respectively, drove around Cimarron where Sandoval was known to patrol. Their undercover vehicle contained “a hidden compartment in the rear of the vehicle under carpeting and outfitted with several air fresheners, which are commonly used to mask the smell of narcotics, and a digital scale of the type often used to weigh narcotics.”
The agents had $8,000 cash with them and, at about 4:40 p.m., Sandoval pulled the agents over for speeding on N.M. 64. The threesome conversed mainly in Spanish, and Sandoval searched the car and found the hidden compartment. One of the agents was placed in the back seat of Sandoval’s patrol car while Sandoval made a phone call.
During the call, Sandoval told the other party that county dispatch did not know that he was out on a traffic stop, according to the FBI’s affidavit, and then asked the other party to pretend that he was a DEA agent.
Sandoval handed the phone to the undercover agent who, via the phone’s caller ID function, identified the caller as a former police chief in northeast New Mexico, named in the court documents but whom the Albuquerque Journal is not identifying in this article because the ex-chief has not been charged…That person told the undercover officer on the cell phone he was with the DEA.
Sandoval made another call to the same person and again handed the phone to the undercover agent, who was told by the “DEA agent” that cash found by Sandoval would be seized.
Sandoval then turned off his in-car and lapel recorders, and said “he wanted to be part of the criminal narcotics activity (the agent) was involved in and would let him pass through the area undisturbed with money and/or drugs in the future if they provided him with a portion of the profits,” the investigators’ affidavit says. Sandoval returned $500 to the agent and kept $7,500, and the agents left.
Three more of these sham drug deals and guarantees of safe passage for a cut of the cash – Sandoval was busted.
Sandoval was an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff last year. In a campaign statement to a weekly newspaper, he said, “I want to modernize the report taking and record keeping as well as the chain of custody and security of evidence.”
Sandoval pleaded not guilty…
Protect and serve…drug dealers passing through New Mexico.