Highway 59: A pot pipeline?

HOUSTON Last week, we showed you this massive bust in Fort Bend County where 3.5 tons of marijuana were found just off of Highway 59. Deputies say they are seeing more and more pot coming up 59 into our area.

Highway 59 stretches from south Texas straight through our area, but narcotics officers are learning that drug traffickers like to make a pit stop just before they hit the big city limits of Houston.

The headline hits close to home for the Cole family. The marijuana was worth an estimated $3.5 million. All of it was seized just a couple of properties down the road.

"It was shocking that there was such a large quantity of drugs out here in our rural area," said resident Shellie Cole.

They live on 100 acres, as do most property owners on Beard Road. And the rural setting that attracted them to Ft. Bend County is also just what some drug traffickers are searching for.

"The only thing unusual my husband noticed that there were 18-wheelers coming in and out at odd hours of the night," said Shelli.

But what they didn't realize is that they were witnessing the latest trafficking trend.

"Highway 59 is known as a pipeline from south Texas," said Chief Deputy Craig Brady of the Ft. Bend County Sheriff's Office.

It's a trend that the Ft. Bend County Narcotics Task Force is already tracking.

"Some of the traffickers are feeling more secure having stash places located outside of an urban area in a real rural setting. They just feel more secure," said Chief Deputy Brady.

He says the pot pipeline is only becoming more popular. In all of 2008, the Ft. Bend County Narcotics Task Force seized less than 4,000 pounds of marijuana. In 2009, they have seized more than 7,000 pounds in just one bust. As the Cole family starts watching their rural street with more scrutiny, law enforcement says the pipeline that is Highway 59 continues to keep pumping.

"There is no way of knowing how many loads get through. I feel like we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg," said Chief Deputy Brady.

Juan Garza, 46, was arrested for that 3.5 ton pot bust. He is charged with possession of marijuana over 2,000 pounds.

But along with narcotics seizures, last year the Ft. Bend County Narcotics Task Force also seized more than $3 million in U.S. currency, all of which is awarded back to several narcotics task forces.

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