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What a suspected drug runner asked cops after being stopped with suitcase full of meth

‘Can I have my dope back?’

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man suspected of drug trafficking had an audacious question for a police officer who pulled him over in San Diego a few months ago.

Justin William Pierce, of Salt Lake City, had just left a Motel 6 with a suitcase full of methamphetamine that Esperanza April Hernandez had retrieved from a storage unit in San Ysidro, a community just north of the U.S.-Mexican border, after driving from Mexico, according to court documents.

FBI agents had the pair under surveillance after obtaining a warrant to intercept their calls and text messages on cellphones, including a conversation arranging to transport meth from California to Utah, court documents say. Authorities believe they were importing drugs from Mexico for sale in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

Within minutes of driving out of the motel parking lot on March 25, a police officer stopped Pierce for a traffic violation. After a positive indication by a drug-sniffing dog, police found about 34 pounds of meth in a rolling luggage bag retrieved from the trunk of the Nissan Altima he was driving, according to court documents.

Police then let Pierce go.

Just before being released from the traffic stop, according to court documents, Pierce asked the officer, “Can I have my dope back?” 

Pierce called Hernandez shortly after being released to tell her had been pulled over. She was driving north on I-5 near the San Diego airport and exited the freeway to take the call and then got back on heading south.

Court records show their conversations after the traffic stop went like this:

Pierce: I just got let go on all that ... Yeah. Like whooo, ummmm, yeah. What do you want to do babe?

Hernandez: I don’t know what you are talking about. Got let go on what? What are you talking about?

Pierce: They took it all.

Hernandez: I don’t know what you are talking about. 

Hernandez and Pierce agreed to meet back in Mexico at the “beach house” and discuss the situation in person, court documents say. Hernandez turned off her phone, cutting off GPS monitoring of her location. 

The FBI in Salt Lake City has been investigating a drug trafficking organization since August 2019 importing narcotics from Mexico for distribution in Salt Lake, Utah, and Davis counties.

Authorities believe Hernandez, also known as Crystal Rosvall, stores drugs, and possibly other contraband, in the San Ysidro storage unit until they can be taken to Utah and elsewhere. Once the drugs are in the state, they are moved to a Salt Lake apartment Hernandez shares with Pierce for pick up by distributors, according to investigators. 

Federal agents eventually arrested Hernandez and Pierce. They were charged Wednesday in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Six others were charged with distribution of methamphetamine.