The Gila County Sheriff’s Office made two massive drug busts in Payson last week, seizing more than $3.75 million worth of fentanyl pills.

Both stops occurred on Feb. 11 and resulted in the arrests of three men, all from Phoenix, according to press releases from the GCSO.

The first incident started around 6 p.m. on State Route 87 and Bonita Street, where a Gila County Drug, Gang, and Violent Crimes Task Force deputy attempted to stop a vehicle on a routine traffic stop.

The vehicle fled and reportedly attempted to evade law enforcement, fleeing to the area behind Bashas’ where the vehicle stopped and deputies arrested one man. A second man fled, hiding in the wooded area north of the shopping center.

K-9 units from the task force, sheriff’s office and the members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety searched the area and a K-9 located the second suspect.

During a search of the vehicle, officers found approximately 50,000 narcotic pills laced with fentanyl hidden in a suitcase in the vehicle. The pills seized have a street value of $1.25 million.

Miguel Angel Lopez Valenzuela, 36, and Jesus Acosta, 25, both of Phoenix, were arrested on charges of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful flight from law enforcement.

Later that evening, at 8:30 p.m., a task force officer again stopped a vehicle on a traffic stop, this time at 910 S. Beeline Highway.

During the investigation, the officer reportedly observed indicators of criminal activity and had a K-9 sniff the vehicle. As a result of the drug sniff, officers searched the vehicle and found 100,000 narcotic pills laced with fentanyl. The pills have a street value of $2.5 million.

Mauricio Compos Ruiz, 25 of Phoenix, was arrested on charges of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, two counts of possession of a narcotic drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Gila County Undersheriff Mike Johnson said there is no connection between the two incidents.

Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd said they are “committed to continuing an aggressive stance on the drug problems that impact our communities and are committed to the strong working relationships with our state and municipal partnerships in combating the drug problems.”

He thanked DPS and the Payson Police Department for their collaborated efforts in these investigations. Shepherd also thanked the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission for funding the Gila County Drug, Gang, and Violent Crimes Task Force, which makes operations such as this possible.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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(2) comments

Mike White

How dumb are these guys to be driving around with over a million dollars worth of drugs only to be stopped for a traffic violation? I'll bet the big boss of whatever organization(s) they run drugs for is one very unhappy dude.

Kenneth Woolcock

Now we need the courts to put them behind bars and let ICE send them back!

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