Two Utah men were arrested in mid-December after law enforcement pulled them over on Interstate 90 and found 38 pounds of marijuana in a vehicle.
Vongmany Mathinpannha, 36, of West Jordan, Utah, was driving an SUV with personal plate and driving 77 mph, 2 mph over the speed limit. A trooper pulled up next to Mathinpannha, who would not look at the trooper, stared straight ahead and kept his hands on the steering wheel, according to court documents.
Mathinpannha was pulled over for speeding and then told law enforcement he didn't have a driver's license.
When the trooper asked Mathinpannha for registration for the vehicle, he told the trooper he'd stolen the SUV. The trooper handcuffed Mathinpannha, and then discovered another occupant in the SUV who claimed to be a hitchhiker and also handcuffed him.
When the trooper searched the backseat, he found several large duffel bags filled with vacuum sealed packages of high-grade marijuana. In his search, the trooper also found a federal prison ID card for Mathinpannha, according to court documents.
The SUV was not reported stolen, however, and was found to belong to a woman riding in a rented vehicle with Utah license plates that was traveling just ahead of the SUV.
Another trooper pulled that vehicle over 33 miles east of where the SUV was stopped. The driver was Dean Linthalath, 38, of Orem, Utah. A woman traveling with Linthalath was identified as the owner of the SUV.
During police interviews, Linthalath and Mathinpannha admitted they were transporting the marijuana with an intent to distribute it.
The woman and the hitchhiker were released after they claimed to have no knowledge of the marijuana or the intentions to distribute the drug.
Linthalath and Mathinpannha were each charged with possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana and possession with an intent to distribute more than 1 pound of marijuana. Each charge carries a maximum penalty upon conviction of 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.