More patrols on I-20 lead to drug bust

AIKEN --- The seizure of $100,000 in marijuana by the North Augusta Department of Public Safety and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office marks the first major bust for narcotics officers since stepping up efforts along Interstate 20.

Officers arrested two North Carolina men during a traffic stop Monday night and charged them with trafficking marijuana.

The driver, Marco Aquirre, of Mount Holly, was initially pulled over for following too closely. Aquirre, 38, told officers he and Genaro Fraga, of Charlotte, were returning from a trip to Atlanta. When the men were separated for questioning about the trip, the details each gave about their trip were different, according to officers.

Officers found 57.2 pounds of marijuana and $600 in cash in a large black duffle bag in the back of the car. The men had tried to mask the smell with pepper, Public Safety Chief John Thomas said.

Since the drug interdiction team began in March, officers have made 18 drug arrests, four felony arrests and captured four fugitives, Thomas said.

"The need is there and there's not a whole lot of drug interdiction between here and Columbia," Thomas said. "We really need to invest in efforts."

Sheriff Mike Hunt said partnering with North Augusta was key to making arrests, in addition to keeping an eye on drivers.

"It stops accidents and traffic fatalities," he said.

Officers wouldn't release any information on where the drugs were headed, but said the investigation could lead to additional arrests.