He was hauling detergent, soap and $700,000 of cocaine in his tractor-trailer, officials say

Pedro Barrios Jr.
Pedro Barrios Jr.

State and federal agents seized about 30 kilos of cocaine after a tractor-trailer inspection on Interstate 10 revealed drugs with an estimated street value of $700,000, officials said.

The cocaine, wrapped in three bundles, was concealed in a load of detergents and soaps the driver was hauling from Laredo, Texas, to West Palm Beach, Florida, the Mississippi Department of Transportation announced Thursday.

A routine inspection stop on an eastbound 2000 Freightliner in Diamondhead led to the arrest of 47-year-old Pedro Barrios Jr. of Laredo, Texas. The tractor-trailer was pulled over about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday near mile marker 16, which is near the Diamondhead exit.

Motor-carrier enforcement agents who perform the inspections check fuel, weight, safety and paperwork to make sure drivers and their vehicles comply with safety regulations.

An MDOT enforcement found the three bundles wrapped in silver duct tape mixed in with the cargo, a Homeland Security Investigations agent said in a criminal complaint.

Officers were checking the load to make sure it was secure and reportedly noticed the bundles in the back of the trailer that weren’t packaged the same as the other products. Two packages were wrapped with gray duct tape. The other was wrapped in clear package.

A K-9 team from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department arrived and the dog indicated something suspicious was in the packages, the HSI agent said.

During the inspection, Barrios voluntarily told agents that his boss had instructed him to put braces on the cargo to keep the load from sliding, and said he closed the trailer door and attached security seals on the doors, the agent said.

Further investigation shows Barrios owns a trucking company and the truck he was driving.

Barrios was arrested on a charge of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

He was being held with no bond for federal marshals.

Barrios was taken to U.S. District Court in Gulfport on Thursday for an initial court appearance.

HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case.

MDOT Enforcement and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics are helping investigate the source and destination of the cocaine, Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King said in a news release.

“I am very proud of our officers’ efforts to protect the public,” King said.

“Their dedicated work continues to make our neighborhoods and state safer by keeping drugs like these from reaching the streets.”

MDOT enforcement officers keep a lookout for illegal drugs and other contraband, including the possibility of human trafficking victims being hauled in commercial vehicles, King said.

“We must continue to be vigilant for this type activity that will impact the safety of the public,” he said.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews