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Big cocaine stash found in luggage of bus passenger

A Los Angeles-area man who was traveling north by bus is in the Jackson County Jail after police allegedly found cocaine worth about $400,000 in his luggage on Monday.

Pablo Temblador-Zepeda, 19, who listed an address in the Los Angeles area but is suspected of being in the country illegally, was jailed on charges of possession, manufacture and distribution of a controlled substance, police said.

Officers assigned to the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Team seized 8 kilos of cocaine from his luggage, police said.

Medford police Sgt. Kevin Walruff, who heads MADGE, is remaining tight-lipped about the details surrounding the bust.

"There isn't much we can say at this point because we still are investigating the case," Walruff said. "I won't speculate that there will be more arrests in this case after further investigation."

Police entered the northbound bus at about 9:30 a.m. Monday as it was stopped at the Petro Truck Stop in Phoenix and used a police dog to find the drugs in the luggage.

Medford police said the cocaine, which was tightly packed into eight bundles wrapped in plastic, has an approximate street value of $400,000.

Walruff, a 17-year veteran with the department, said Monday's cocaine bust was the largest he'd seen in his time with Medford police.

"We've had some fairly large cocaine cases in the past, but I can't recall anything quite this big," Walruff said.

A more typical bust made by the department is in smaller quantities, such as 3 ounces reportedly seized in a home near Howard Elementary School in June.

The department has been chasing drug dealers and users at a higher pace this year.

Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George said the number of drug offenses has jumped 20 percent over last year.

"The bad news is the drug cases are up; the good news is we're clearing them at a pretty good rate," George said.

According to the most recent incident report of the year, the department has cleared nearly 90 percent of its drug cases, meaning 9 in 10 cases end in arrest or citation, George said.

George didn't have the latest numbers on cocaine seized, but at the end of summer the department had netted 358 grams of cocaine, an increase over last year.

If the current pace continues, with November shaping up to be another busy drug month in Medford, the department will end the year up 25 to 30 percent in drug offenses for 2009, George said.

"We should have slightly more than 1,000 total drug cases by the end of the year," George said. "From what I hear, we're not alone in Medford. Several departments throughout the state have had increases in drugs and overall crime this year."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Big cocaine stash found in luggage of bus passenger