RATON, New Mexico (STPNS) -- A Texas man with a criminal history that includes a prior drug-offense charge, is facing federal charges after officers in Colfax County found 36 pounds of heroin hidden in a SUV the man was driving last week.
Francisco Burciaga was driving north on Interstate 25 near the south end of Raton when he was pulled over by an officer for failing to use his turn signal correctly. The traffic stop led to a search of the SUV that yielded the heroin stashed in a false compartment behind the rear bumper cover, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Albuquerque by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officer.
The DEA took over the case after Burciaga was arrested. He has been charged federally with possession with intent to distribute the heroin that the DEA estimates would be worth at least $500,000 if sold on the street. The street value for drugs such as heroin varies greatly from place to place and the 36 pounds siezed from Burciaga's SUV could have brought significantly more money in some locations, according to the DEA.
Burciaga's lack of proper signaling June 24 caused New Mexico Motor Transportation Officer John Valdez to stop the SUV at about 5:55 a.m. According to the federal affidavit, Valdez could smell a "pungent chemical odor" from the vehicle and later smelled a similar odor coming from Burciaga. The lone occupant of the SUV, Burciaga had a Texas driver's license, but the SUV was registered to him at a Phoenix address. Authorities identified Burciaga as being from El Paso, Texas. The affidavit says the SUV was registered and insured to Burciaga June 23, the day before the traffic stop near Raton. Burciaga told Valdez he was traveling from Phoenix to Chicago.
During the stop, Valdez checked with a criminal information system that records criminal incidents involving people going through checkpoints at the U.S.-Mexico border. That check found that Burciaga had "two positive hits related to narcotics," according to the affidavit.
After citing Burciaga for the turn-signal violation, Valdez asked Burciaga if there was anything illegal in the SUV and Burciaga responded with, "Wanna look?" and opened the rear door of the vehicle, the affidavit says.
Valdez called for assistance and Raton Police Department Officer Cory Coca brought his police dog, Aros, to the scene. Aros indicated that some sort of drugs were in the vehicle, the affidavit indicates.
A search revealed the heroin - in 24 individually-wrapped packages - in the false compartment, the affidavit says.
Burciaga on Thursday was ordered by a federal judge to remain in custody after Burciaga waived his right to a preliminary trial. In making his decision, the judge noted that Burciaga had "a criminal history with prior convictions and a prior drug offense charge."
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