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St. Rose drug bust finds 78 pounds of marijuana, 19 guns, $36,880
    #768317 - 02/04/15 02:20 AM (3 years, 3 months ago)

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In one of St. Charles Parish's biggest drug busts in recent history, investigators searching a St. Rose home found 78 pounds of marijuana, 19 guns and $36,880, Sheriff Greg Champagne said Tuesday (Feb. 3). Two people were arrested.

Authorities estimate the marijuana, which they found hidden in a truck's spare tire, a common practice among drug mules, has a street value of more than $100,000. The money was bundled in $20s, $50s and $100s.

"This was obviously a very large-scale transfer of marijuana," Champagne said. "It is a very good bust. ... We're just pleased to be able to take this amount of drugs off the street."

Champagne said the arsenal included three assault weapons. "Some of these weapons have no hunting potential, but there was no indication that there were any plans to use them," Champagne said. "But it is certainly unusual to have such an arsenal."

The discovery stemmed from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tip that Juan Salinas, 20, of Houston was moving drugs from Houston to Lance James Cowans, 36. A traffic stop turned up marijuana in Salinas' vehicle, and authorities obtained a search warrant for Cowans' home at 836 Fox Lane, Champagne said.

Contraband found at the home included two pistols, 17 rifles, multiple digital scales, material used to package and distribute marijuana, $36,880, 78 pounds of marijuana and "several other controlled dangerous substances," including cocaine Champagne said.

The tire had come from Salinas' truck, authorities said. They found in the backyard.

Champagne said Cowans' alleged drug activities had been "flying below radar." There had been no reported disturbances at the home.

"He's been there for a number of years and actually has a minimal criminal record," Champagne said. "So, one of those people who decided to go big in just recent years and was kind of flying below radar very carefully as some of them can do, as the larger ones tend to do."

Salinas was booked with a stop-sign violation on Airline Drive and distribution of 78 pounds of marijuana. Cowans was booked with possession with intent to distribute 78 pounds of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of guns in connection with drugs and 13 other drug charges. They remained in jail Tuesday.

Champagne said his office was running a check on the weapons to determine whether they were stolen or used in any other crimes. "We haven't gotten any of that information back yet, but it is certainly a possibility," he said.

The sheriff, who displayed the cache of drugs, money and weapons during a news conference at his Luling headquarters, said his office will seek to have all of the items forfeited -- including the cash -- to the Sheriff's Office. "This is what (the forfeiture statute) was design for," Champagne said. "It is clear that this money and these weapons were tied to the drug trade, which is the thing we used to hit the drug dealers where it hurts, in their pocket book and taking their assets. "


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