Man arrested for allegedly smuggling $263,300 worth of methamphetamine in secret car compartment

Courtesy Utah County Sheriff's Office

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — A Mexican national with a history of drug distribution charges in Utah was arrested Sunday for allegedly smuggling $263,300 worth of methamphetamine.

Ramon Felix Vernal, 37, was arrested after police conducted a traffic stop Sunday on a vehicle that crossed a lane divider, and whose registration showed that it had no insurance, a probable cause statement released by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said.

While running the registration of the vehicle, police deployed a K-9 unit, which after sniffing the car, gave probable cause for officers to search the vehicle.

Vernal initially gave officers a Mexican Consulate ID and a Baja California driver’s license that identified him by a different name, the probable cause statement said. Later he was identified by his true name and told deputies that he had initially given them false identification.

“While searching the vehicle we observed numerous tooling marks on different screws and bolts around the center console area,” deputies wrote in the probable cause statement. “It was apparent the vehicle has been taken apart many times, consistent with vehicles used to transport contraband such as illegal drugs.”

Officers deployed their K-9 unit in the interior of the vehicle in an attempt to locate possible illicit substances. Vernal’s body language allegedly changed when the K-9 began searching the vehicle, and he appeared nervous. The K-9 directed officers on-scene to the center console area that had appeared to have been altered, the probable cause statement said.

While searching the console area, officers located a secret compartment, that allegedly had 2,633 grams of methamphetamine inside of it.

Police estimated the value of the methamphetamine seized to be around $263,300.

Vernal was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony, altering a vehicle compartment for contraband, a class-A misdemeanor, two counts of forgery, a third-degree felony, false or fictitious name on registration or title, a third-degree felony, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class-B misdemeanor, and failure to operate within a single lane. He was transported and booked into the Utah County Jail.

“Ramon has been previously deported making this an aggravated re-entry into the United States,” the probable cause statement said “Ramon has ties to Mexico, stating his spouse currently lives in Sinaloa Mexico. I believe that Ramon is a flight risk and will flee to Mexico if released from custody.”