A Washington State Patrol trooper has pulled over the same bus owned by a Los Angeles-based carrier twice in the past two weeks on Interstate 5 — and both times, passengers on the nearly empty bus were accused of carrying contraband.
During a Feb. 6 stop in DuPont, two passengers were arrested for carrying more than half a pound of methamphetamine, and during a stop in Thurston County Tuesday morning, a passenger was arrested for having a stolen, loaded Ruger pistol, court papers state.
The similar fact patterns surrounding the two stops of the same bus, which is owned by Autobusses Coordiavos USA Inc., a company based in Los Angeles, Calif., is odd, Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill said.
“It’s something we are investigating, it’s safe to say,” Gill said.
Almost no passengers
During both stops, the trooper issued a citation because the bus did not have a visible “prorated license,” which allows out-of-state buses to legally travel in Washington. And during both stops, the individuals who were arrested for allegedly carrying contraband were nearly the only passengers on the bus, Gill said.
During the Feb. 6 stop in DuPont, there were three passengers and two were arrested for allegedly carrying the half-pound of meth. During the Tuesday stop in Thurston County, the man who allegedly had the stolen Ruger was the only passenger, Gill said.
The same person was driving in both cases, Gill added.
Officials with Autobusses Coordiavos could not be reached for comment at their listed headquarters in Los Angeles.
During the Feb. 6 stop, the trooper saw the bus traveling in the far left lane of the highway, which is illegal for that section of I-5, according to a WSP news release. The driver did not have a log book, which is required by law, and the registration for the bus had expired.
The trooper became suspicious because the driver did not know much about the company or its employees and the trooper was unable to contact the company with a phone number provided by the driver. The driver and passengers consented to a search, and a search dog found two suitcases in baggage compartments under the bus which contained more than half a pound of meth, along with $2,200 cash. Two of the passengers, a 17-year-old and a 23-year-old from Los Angeles, were arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.
During the Tuesday morning stop on I-5 south in Thurston County, the trooper pulled the bus over because it did not have prorated plates. The bus had only one passenger. The trooper, the same one who pulled the coach over on Feb. 6, asked the passenger why he was the only rider.
“The passenger said they were just starting out over here and they were more popular south and on the eastside of the state,” court papers state. The passenger said he was headed to California from Mount Vernon to find work as a plumber.
Based on his history with the bus, the trooper asked the passenger if he could search his belongings. The passenger said he didn’t want his stuff messed up, but the trooper assured him he’d keep his things as neat as possible, court papers state.
The trooper found the loaded Ruger, and a computer check revealed it had been reported stolen out of Mountlake Terrace in 2010. The 32-year-old Mount Vernon man was placed under arrest on suspicion of possession of a stolen firearm. The man said he had received the firearm “from a friend of a friend,” court papers state. A judge released the man on his personal recognizance during a court hearing in Olympia Wednesday, meaning he did not have to post bail.