PHOENIX — A 20-year-old woman was arrested and booked into the Jackson County Jail on more than $500,000 bail after local and federal police say they caught her smuggling about 3 pounds of methamphetamine through the Rogue Valley inside a fire extinguisher.
Police reported Maria De Jesus Beltran-Leon, 20, no address given, was held in the jail Tuesday on charges of unlawful delivery and possession of a controlled substance, with bail set at $510,000.
Officials from the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement — MADGE — team received a tip about Beltran-Leon's whereabouts, directing police to a public bus passing through Phoenix. The agency received assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security.
Police said they found Beltran-Leon on the bus with the fire extinguisher and arrested her after finding the drugs inside. The bus was en route to Portland from California, and Beltran-Leon had hidden the fire extinguisher inside a bag of clothes, said Lt. Brett Johnson of MADGE.
"Once (law enforcement) made contact, they asked for consent to look in her bag, and she gave it," Johnson said. "I don't think fire extinguishers are something you need to transport long distances."
Johnson said the device had been depressurized and the foam had been removed before the drugs were stuffed inside, with paper napkins placed over the opening.
"Getting it out was quite a chore," Johnson said. "It's kind of like a salt shaker that's pretty stuffed up."
Additional federal charges could be added to Beltran-Leon's rap sheet, police said.
Johnson said creative methods of drug storage are not new to police. In a previous drug seizure case, MADGE officers pulled over a truck with numerous construction tools in the back. Police opened up the tube on a caulking gun, still half-filled with the substance, and found heroin.
"It was just rolling around in the back of the truck like it was nobody's business," Johnson said. "It's amazing what we'll find stuff hidden in."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.