Published 12:00 am Monday, December 5, 2005

pounds of cocaine seized at Bovina scales|[12/3/05]

A Mexican man is facing federal drug charges after what law enforcement officials called one of the largest cocaine busts in Mississippi.

About 1,274 pounds of powder cocaine with an estimated value of $11 million was seized by law enforcement officers with the Mississippi Department of Transportation at the truck scales on Interstate 20 at Bovina.

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Jose Rogelio Salazar, 40, of Juarez, Mexico, was arrested after a routine inspection of the tractor trailer he was driving, an MDOT news release stated Friday.

During the inspection, officers became suspicious of the paperwork shown to officers. When the trailer was searched, officers found 19 duffel bags containing the substance hidden among empty packing boxes positioned as a legitimate load.

Salazar was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and turned over to officials with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, MDOT Enforcement Director Willie Huff of MDOT said Friday.

&#8220This is a very significant seizure and from the size of the load it is a safe assumption it is tied to a very large criminal organization,” Huff said.

The investigation into the origin and destination of the cocaine is continuing by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, DEA and federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials.

It is the third drug bust by MDOT officers at the Bovina scales in just over a month. Officers seized 883 pounds of marijuana from two busts on Oct. 17 and 18, the release said. The approximate value of those two seizures was $853,000.

Huff said the recent combination of the Public Service Commission vehicles and increased Homeland Security training has allowed more in-depth inspection of commercial vehicles at the scales.

&#8220It’s a credit to the officers,” Huff said.