CEDAR CITY — A California man arrested for DUI in Cedar City Sunday morning is facing felony drug trafficking charges after officers reportedly found approximately $5 million worth of methamphetamine and fentanyl inside his vehicle.

Clear plastic bags containing crystal methamphetamine and wrapped foil packages containing fentanyl pills were among the items seized following a DUI traffic stop, Cedar City, Utah, March 9, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Iron-Beaver-Garfield Narcotics Task Force, St. George News / Cedar City News

Julio Partida-Pantoja, 50, was booked into Iron County Jail just before 8 a.m. Sunday. He is being held on suspicion of two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, each a second-degree felony, along with misdemeanor counts of interfering with an officer, having an open container of alcohol inside a vehicle, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of Partida-Pantoja’s arrest, at approximately 3:22 a.m. Sunday, an Iron County Sheriff’s deputy observed a white Cadillac at the intersection of 200 North and 1400 West remain stationary when the light turned green.

After the deputy turned left in his vehicle, he said he watched the Cadillac in his rear-view mirrors.

“It sat through a light cycle and did not move,” the deputy wrote in the affidavit, adding that he then pulled his vehicle around without lights or sirens and approached the driver’s side door.

“The driver, later identified as Partida-Pantoja, opened the door,” the deputy wrote. “I immediately observed Partida-Pantoja had red bloodshot watery eyes, poor dexterity and slurred speech.”

The deputy then administered field sobriety tests, including a preliminary breath test that reportedly showed Partida-Pantoja had a blood alcohol level of 0.262, which is more than five times the legal limit in Utah.

A plastic bag containing crystal methamphetamine was seized following a DUI traffic stop, Cedar City, Utah, March 9, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Iron-Beaver-Garfield Narcotics Task Force, St. George News / Cedar City News

Partida-Pantoja was then placed under arrest and his vehicle was searched.

“During the vehicle inventory, a substantial amount of presumptive methamphetamine and fentanyl pills were located,” the affidavit states, noting that subsequent tests positively indicated that the substances were the drugs in question.

Agents with the Iron-Garfield-Beaver Narcotics Task Force were brought in to help process the evidence.

The search reportedly yielded 122.5 pounds of a white crystalline substance identified as methamphetamine, plus 50.67 pounds of fentanyl pills, or approximately 231,540 pills. 

The total street value of the combined drugs is approximately $5 million, according to the tri-county task force’s commander.

The fentanyl pills alone “would have placed countless lives at risk,” the charging documents state.

“Partida-Pantoja, a California resident, has no ties to Utah and has been homeless for eight months,” the affidavit adds.

As of Tuesday, Partida-Pantoja continues to be held without bail in Iron County Jail as he awaits his initial court appearance.

“We appreciate our officers’ hard work and the product that has been recently seized and taken off the streets through their efforts,” said Cedar City Police Sgt. Justin Ludlow, the public information officer for the Iron-Garfield-Beaver Narcotics Task Force.

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.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.