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Tennessee Highway Patrol, West Tennessee Drug Task Force Arrests Couple in Largest Synthetic Drug Seizure this Year

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 | 10:58am

NASHVILLE –- Tennessee State Trooper Grant Montgomery, assigned to the West Tennessee Drug Task Force (WTDTF), made a traffic stop in Haywood County on Monday that resulted in the largest synthetic marijuana laboratory seizure in the state this year. The traffic stop led to the seizure of approximately 50 pounds of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2 and spice, and $18,320 in U.S. currency.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), the Metro Jackson-Madison Narcotics Unit, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were also involved in the case.  

Trooper Montgomery stopped a white Dodge pick-up truck with a camper top on Interstate 40 westbound near mile marker 46 for a traffic violation at approximately 5:45 p.m. on Monday. The vehicle was occupied by a female driver and a male passenger, who exhibited nervous and suspicious behavior upon the trooper’s approach. The driver explained that they were “flipping” houses and were headed to a home they were working on in Memphis. According to the driver, the two also had a property in Jackson.

Both occupants presented Trooper Montgomery with Florida identification cards only. After running a validation check, the investigator discovered that neither occupant was licensed to drive and both were on probation from the state of Florida for possession with intent to manufacture, deliver and sale synthetic narcotics. Further, their probation was recently transferred to Tennessee.

Trooper Montgomery then received both verbal and written consent to search the vehicle. WTDTF Special Agents Brent Hill and Tim Russell arrived on the scene to assist with the search. Agent Hill found a safe under the right rear seat of the passenger side, where several bundles of cash and U.S. Mail priority receipts to and from the couple were located.

With the help of the THP’s Criminal Investigation Division and the TDOC, Trooper Montgomery gained consent to search both residences of the suspects. Montgomery, Special Agent Hill and a Metro Jackson-Madison County Narcotics officer searched the residence in Jackson and found a synthetic cannabinoid laboratory, along with scales, drug paraphernalia and packaging and labeling materials. DEA agents then coordinated with Metro Jackson-Madison to secure clean-up of the home by the Methamphetamine Task Force.

Meanwhile, two other WTDTF agents conducted a consensual search of the residence in Memphis. There, they recovered approximately one ounce of synthetic cannabinoids and chemicals for processing synthetic cannabinoids.   

Suspects Sarah Van Aken, 30, and Patrick Van Aken, 32, will face money laundering charges by the WTDTF, while Metro Jackson-Madison will charge the couple on drug-related offenses. The DEA will present the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible federal prosecution.

Both suspects were transported to the Madison County Jail. Booking photos may be obtained from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.

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