More than 300 pounds of marijuana found in truck

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A Texas truck driver was charged Tuesday with drug trafficking after authorities say they found more than 300 pounds of marijuana hidden in a tractor-trailer carrying mangoes.
The mangoes were bound for consumers in New York, investigators say, while the marijuana was meant for customers in Rowan County.
Hermilo Gomez Jr., 41, of Edinburg, Texas, was parked at a Rowan County truck stop Tuesday morning when he was approached by investigators who had identified a “suspicious” tractor-trailer traveling from the southwestern U.S. border, a Rowan Sheriff’s Office press release said.
Gomez gave his consent to search the vehicle. Officials say they found 317 pounds of marijuana worth at least $253,600. If sold in small quantities, the street value could be as high as $700,000, they said.
Based on the investigation, authorities believe the marijuana was destined for Rowan County area buyers.
Gomez was charged with trafficking in marijuana, conspiring to traffic marijuana and maintaining a dwelling place or vehicle for a controlled substance, all felonies.
He was placed in the Rowan County Detention Center under a $100,000 secured bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for today.
The arrest followed a joint investigation involving the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security, SBI, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, Davie County Sheriff’s Office, Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
The mango shipment was a legitimate order, Sifford said. The company that placed the order paid a local vendor to refuel the truck so the refrigeration system will keep the fruit cool.
The company told authorities it would fly a truck driver to the airport in Charlotte on Tuesday night. That person was to then drive the load on to its original destination in New York, Sifford said.
Gomez drives for Heavenly Express Trucking of Edinburg, Texas, a dispatcher who answered the telephone there Tuesday evening confirmed. She said the company was aware of the arrest but didn’t know anything about the illegal cargo Gomez is accused of transporting.
“We found out about it this morning when they called us and notified us,” said the dispatcher, who declined to give her name or provide any other information.
Scott Jenkins contributed.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.