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Three face charges after Main Street drug bust in Cortez

Weapons, meth, marijuana found in car

Three Arizona residents have been charged with drug-related offenses after Montezuma County deputies pulled over a car loaded with weapons and meth on Main Street in Cortez.

Deputies arrested Gary Austin, Tina Begay and Chelsea Hodges just after midnight on Jan. 8 after their vehicle was pulled over for reportedly swerving over the fog line and making an illegal left turn onto U.S. Highway 491 near Burger King.

While they were speaking with Austin, the driver, and the two women, one of the deputies noticed an open marijuana container in the vehicle and started a search. According to the incident report by patrol deputy Jared Farnsworth, numerous weapons, including knives and a BB gun, were found in the vehicle, along with several bags of meth and some drug paraphernalia.

Farnsworth reported that when he was first pulled over, Austin told deputies he and his passengers were on their way to Gallup, New Mexico, and had taken a wrong turn. He reportedly said he believed he was in Farmington. Although he said Austin did not appear to be intoxicated, Farnsworth reported that he asked the man to leave his car for a search because “reasonable people don’t ... end up this far off course without extraordinary circumstances.”

While Farnsworth was searching Austin for weapons, the other deputy, Victor Galarza, noticed the marijuana container.

In addition to the drugs, the deputies reportedly found a set of lock-pick tools and a piece of paper with a list of marijuana prices and amounts, and what they believed could be a list of meth prices. Farnsworth noted in his report that meth users sometimes commit burglaries or thefts to support their habit, and several items commonly used in meth distribution were found in the vehicle.

Deputies confiscated 6.57 grams of meth and 26.83 grams of marijuana from the vehicle.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said it’s becoming increasingly common for deputies to find large amounts of drugs in cars traveling through Cortez to neighboring states.

“(Colorado) is an export state,” he said. “People are traveling from all over the place to come here.”

Begay reportedly gave deputies a false name at first, but her identification confirmed that she had a New Mexico warrant for failure to appear. She was arrested on that warrant and on suspicion of false reporting and possession of controlled substances.

On Wednesday, charges were filed against Begay in Montezuma County Combined Courts, and her preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 7. Hodges was also scheduled to be charged on Wednesday with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, but her filing was postponed because she failed to appear in court. Her next court date had not been set as of Wednesday afternoon. Austin was charged Jan. 10 with possession of a controlled substance and driving with an open container of marijuana. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24.

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