Hwy. 97 truck crash turns up record drug haul

Meth, cocaine, heroin worth close to $3 million

PORTLAND, Ore. - A non-injury produce truck crash on Highway 97 in Sherman County last month didn't bring much attention, until a private tow company called in to unload the cargo found something odd – two bundles of drugs that fell from the produce pallets.

Federal prosecutors now say the hidden cargo was close to $3 million worth of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin – the largest such seizure in Oregon history.

Truck driver Salvador Martinez-Perez, 53, of East Wenatchee, Wash., pleaded not guilty Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Dennis Hubel in Portland to a federal indictment charging him with four counts of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute the drugs, said U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Gerri Badden.

He remains in federal custody pending a trial scheduled for April 22.

Sherman County sheriff's deputies responded on Jan. 17 to the semi-truck rollover crash. They arrived to find Martinez-Perez at the accident scene, and unhurt, he was released at the scene, officials said.

The next day, a private tow company was dispatched to the crash scene to remove the inoperable semi, Badden said. While the crew was unloading the cargo, two bundles of drugs fell from the produce pallets.

Sheriff's deputies found about 190 pounds of meth, 7 ½ kilos of cocaine and 11 pounds of heroin.

Federal prosecutors did not offer a street value, only saying the amount of drugs was the largest reported seizure in Oregon history.

While not involved in the seizure or case, Lt. Paul Kansky of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team said that depending on the quality of the drugs, they could be worth about $3 million to $3.5 million on the street, most of that the methamphetamine.

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