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Employees of a Portage County Ford dealership made a surprising discovery while checking out a newly delivered Ford Fusion this week.
"It was in a wheel well where the spare tire goes," Portage County Sheriff David Doak said of a compressed package of marijuana resembling a tire that workers discovered.
Local and federal drug agents did the rest, first discovering five more packages of marijuana in cars at the dealership.
"Investigators learned the vehicles were shipped by train from Mexico to the Warren area," Doak said. "They were marked so they could be visually checked by whoever was going to receive the drugs."
The Portage County Drug Task Force and agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency in Youngstown started checking out more new Fusions across the region and discovered nine more packages of marijuana in Portage, Stark and Columbiana counties, along with one from Pennsylvania, Doak said.
"We found 15 packages in all, over $1 million in street value," Doak said. The pot weighed in at 400 pounds.
Investigators determined that the Ford Fusions were manufactured in Mexico and crossed the Mexican border into Arizona.
"Someone boarded the train to pack the drugs and discard the spare tires," Doak said, theorizing someone else was supposed to retrieve them before they arrived locally.
"This isn't the first time this has occurred," Doak said.
An investigation by the Sheriff's Office as well as the Youngstown DEA is ongoing.