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Tennessee State Trooper Makes Drug Arrest in Fayette County

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | 11:20am
NASHVILLE --- Two Texas men were arrested on drug trafficking charges after being stopped by a Tennessee State Trooper assigned to the West Tennessee Drug Task Force (WTDTF) for speeding on Monday morning. Their apprehension led to the detainment of two additional suspects involved in the case.  
At approximately 7:53 a.m., Trooper Brad Simpson stopped a 2011 Toyota Camry with Texas registration on Interstate 40 eastbound at the 42 mile marker in Fayette County. Upon making contact with the driver, identified as Benjamin Ponce de Leon, 21, and passenger, Alberto Yebra, 32, both of Carrizo Springs, Texas, Trooper Simpson observed suspicious behavior. After additional questioning, the suspects indicated they were traveling from San Antonio, Texas to Charlotte, N.C
Upon noticing several indicators of criminal activity, Trooper Simpson deployed his K-9 and received a positive response for the presence of illegal drugs. Further investigation revealed eight kilos of suspected cocaine in the rear panel of the vehicle and later discovered two more kilos of suspected cocaine in the dashboard.
Investigators with the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Memphis and Jackson offices, Homeland Security Office, and Troopers Matthew Sipes, a Task Force Officer, and Dwayne Stanford, of the Jackson District, also discovered a second vehicle in connection to the initial traffic stop. The two occupants of that suspect vehicle were later stopped and apprehended without incident.  
All four individuals were arrested and transported to the Fayette County Jail. Ponce de Leon and Yebra were charged with possession of schedule II controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, sale or deliver. The occupants of the companion vehicle, Claudio Santos, 26, of Monroe, N.C., and Victor Lertuche, 26, of San Antonio, were both charged with conspiracy to manufacture, sale or deliver.
The estimated street value of the seized drugs was between $320,000 to $350,000.
“This is another example that shows why the partnership between our State Troopers and the West Tennessee Drug Task Force is so important,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “It is going to take a team effort to win the war on drug trafficking in Tennessee. We are both committed to winning that war."
"This stop, arrest, and seizure should serve as a message to those who would try to traffic contraband through the state of Tennessee," said Chief Dave McGriff of the WTDTF. "Trooper Simpson is to be commended. His work in this case represents our agents' commitment to stop illegal drug trafficking here in West Tennessee and beyond."
This case remains under investigation by the DEA. Photos of the suspects can be obtained from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.  
The West Tennessee Drug Task Force formed a partnership with the Tennessee Highway Patrol in which state troopers are assigned to the Interstate Interdiction Unit.
The West Tennessee Drug Task Force is a joint agency comprised of law enforcement officers assigned from various law enforcement agencies in three of West Tennessee’s judicial districts. The judicial districts include the 28th Judicial District (Crockett, Gibson, and Haywood Counties); the 29th Judicial District (Dyer and Lake Counties); and the 30th Judicial District (Shelby County). Additionally, six agents work solely for the Task Force and not for separate law enforcement agencies. The Task Force is administered by District Attorney General Garry Brown of the 28th Judicial District; District Attorney General Phillip Bivens of the 29th Judicial District; and District Attorney General Amy Weirich of the 30th Judicial District.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.   

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