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Central American man charged with drug trafficking in Monroe County

Monroe County Chief Deputy Joe Colston and Sheriff David Hoffman with the alleged approximately one pound of cocaine that was seized during a traffic stop conducted by Colston near Madison on Thursday.
FORREST GOSSETT/SALT RIVER JOURNAL
By Forrest Gossett Salt River Journal Editor
Posted: Jan. 20, 2020 4:55 pm Updated: Jan. 26, 2020 9:53 pm

A man was arrested on charges of possessing nearly one pound of cocaine following a routine traffic stop in Monroe County late Thursday.

Law enforcement sources estimate the street value of the alleged cocaine at between $75,000 and $100,000.

Ruben Eduardo Villeda Duarte, 26, a citizen of the Central American nation of Guatemala, charged by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Smith with trafficking drugs in the first degree, an “A” felony that carries a potential sentence of 10 to 30 years.

He was arraigned before Monroe County District Court Judge Michael Wilson on Friday morning, who denied bail.

According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Villeda Duarte was stopped by Chief Deputy Joe Colston while driving a 2004 Toyota Corolla on U.S. Highway 24, traveling westbound just east of Madison at an alleged speed of 72 mph, 12 mph above the posted 60 mph limit.

Colston said that the car had no license plates. He stopped the Toyota near the Hoof Restaurant just inside the Madison city limits.

“I asked why there was no registration on the vehicle. The subject provided identification and proof of insurance. He indicated he had purchased the vehicle the previous day in Chicago, Illinois, and provided a title on which the sale or transfer of ownership portion was not complete and did not bear Villeda Duarte's signature anywhere,” Colston wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “During conversation, the subject indicated he had flown from Guatemala to Miami, Florida, and then to Chicago, Illinois, the previous day. He indicated he was traveling to Salisbury, Missouri to see a friend.”

Colston said that Villeda Duarte was cooperative but appeared nervous, asking frequently to make a phone call.

“I asked and received consent to search the vehicle. During the search of the vehicle I observed two large duffle bags. I asked Villeda Duarte if the bags belonged to him. He replied, 'Yes.' I then asked for permission to search the bags. He shook his head in the affirmative and said, 'Yes, go inside,'and made hand motions mimicking opening and looking inside a bag, indicating his understanding of my intent,” Colston wrote.

Colston alleges that he found two large objects wrapped in aluminum foil, which during a field test was positive for cocaine. He arrested Villeda Duarte and seized the evidence.

The items in question were seized as evidence and secured in my patrol vehicle.

“In a post-Miranda interview, Villeda Duarte denied the substance was cocaine indicating it was a food item,” Colston wrote.

Colston said that because of concern that he and deputies may have been exposed to fentanyl, additional field testing was performed at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. The Monroe County Ambulance District responded to the court house for assistance.

“The presence of fentanyl was eliminated; however, a secondary field test also indicated a presumptive positive for cocaine,” Colston wrote. “Additionally, a drug-sniffing dog was utilized and indicated the presence of a controlled substance when exposed to the white powdery substance in question.”

A bond reduction hearing had not been set at press time.

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