CEDAR CITY — Two people were arrested following a traffic stop just north of Cedar City Thursday morning, after Utah Highway Patrol troopers reportedly found $19,000 cash inside their rental vehicle.

The driver, identified as Sashia Sabrina Pierce, 24, and passenger Marco Antonio Salazar, 24, were subsequently booked into Iron County Jail on suspicion of multiple charges, including money laundering and drug possession.

According to the probable cause statements filed in support of the pair’s arrests, at approximately 8:50 a.m., a Utah Highway Patrol trooper observed the driver of a gray SUV make an improper lane change in front of a semi truck on southbound Interstate 15.

After the trooper pulled over the vehicle near mile marker 65, he then spoke with the driver, identified as Pierce. 

“The driver almost immediately told me that they had come from San Diego to Utah just to see the snow,” the trooper wrote in the affidavit, adding that both of the occupants claimed they had been sleeping most of the time while the other one had been driving.

The trooper noted that as he spoke to the SUV’s two occupants, he became suspicious of criminal activity. A K-9 was then deployed to conduct a free air sniff of the vehicle. Troopers found a THC vape pen in Salazar’s pants pocket.

“Neither subject had valid medical marijuana cards, so we began to prepare for a probable cause search,” the arresting trooper wrote in the affidavit.

Closeup of Utah Highway Patrol patrol vehicle, Cedar City, Utah, May 14, 2022 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“During a probable cause search I located a Swiffer mop pad box on the back seat that contained a rubber-banded stack of money which I estimated to be approximately $20,000,” the trooper wrote, adding, “Both subjects were detained and initially claimed the money as their own. We also located some more THC products inside the subject vehicle.”

Later, at the UHP office in Cedar City, both subjects invoked their Miranda rights and refused to answer any questions about the money, the affidavit states, noting that the total amount of cash was counted at $19,000.

Both Pierce and Salazar are being held without bail in Iron County Jail on suspicion of money laundering, a second-degree felony, and two misdemeanor counts related to possession of drugs and paraphernalia. In addition, Pierce faces one count of driving without insurance, a class C misdemeanor, and one count of making an improper lane change, an infraction.

This report is based on statements from court documents and law enforcement officials and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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