CEDAR CITY — Three accused drug traffickers were recently arrested in two separate but similar traffic stops in Iron County.

The first of the two incidents occurred on northbound Interstate 15 on Sunday shortly before 5 p.m. when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper observed the driver of a gray Toyota RAV4 with California license plates commit an alleged traffic infraction involving an improper lane change.

The driver of the Toyota, identified as Velvet Britson, 29, reportedly did not have a valid driver license or identification card in her possession, although she did show the trooper a photo of her California driver license. Meanwhile, the passenger in the back seat, identified as Cristian Gonzalez, 33, also lacked valid identification.

“While I was working on the citations, I began to be suspicious of criminal activity,” the arresting trooper wrote in the probable cause statements filed in support of the arrests. 

Shortly thereafter, an Iron County Sheriff’s Office drug K-9 was deployed, and the dog positively indicated the odor of narcotics coming from the vehicle, the affidavit states.

“During a search of the vehicle approximately 14 pounds of methamphetamine was located,” the trooper wrote in the affidavit. “Most of it was concealed in the back of the driver and front passenger’s seat. One pound of methamphetamine was located at the feet of the passenger.”

The trooper estimated the total street value of the methamphetamine at approximately $325,000.

Britson and Gonzalez are both being held without bail in Iron County Jail as of Wednesday. Each faces one felony count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. According to the affidavits, that charge has been enhanced to a first-degree felony for both defendants because they each have similar prior convictions in California. Neither defendant has any ties to the Cedar City area, according to the charging documents.

Both defendants also face misdemeanor counts of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Additionally, Britson also faces misdemeanor charges of driving on a suspended license and driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance, along with the infraction of failing to yield to a faster vehicle in the same lane.

File photo of Iron County Jail, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 17, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Then, in an unrelated incident just two days later, a 20-year-old man was arrested following a traffic stop on northbound I-15 just a few miles north of Cedar City.

Shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled over the driver of a Nissan Rogue with Texas license plates near mile marker 67 for a suspected window tint violation. 

After the driver gave permission to search the vehicle, troopers reportedly found approximately 35 pounds of marijuana in the trunk, along with some $22,000 cash in U.S. currency.

The Nissan driver, identified as Skyler James Johnson-Avalos, was subsequently booked into Iron County Jail, where he is being held without bail as of Wednesday. He is being held on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a third-degree felony, and money laundering, a second-degree felony. In addition, he faces misdemeanor counts related to possession of drugs and paraphernalia, plus the window tint violation, an infraction.

According to the charging documents, Johnson-Avalos was “traveling across several states with no apparent ties to the jurisdiction of arrest.” He told the arresting trooper that he was driving from Long Beach, California to the upper Midwest.

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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