VALENCIA — A Tracy man stopped Thursday afternoon for not wearing his seat belt in Southern California was found carrying about 400 kilograms — about 880 pounds — of cocaine in the back of his pickup, California Highway Patrol officials said.

Juan Alvarez, 31, was arraigned Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court on two felony charges:

possession for sale of a controlled substance and transportation of a controlled substance, according to court documents. Both charges carry an enhancement for exceeding 80 kilograms and could net Alvarez a maximum of 50 years in prison.

Alvarez did not enter a plea and is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 2, a spokeswoman for the court said. He is being held in Glendale on a $5 million bond.

CHP Investigator Charlie Sampson, who works with the multiagency Los Angeles County Narcotics Task Force, said it was the largest bust he has seen in his four years with the group.

You dont usually see a large load like that, Sampson said. Its easier (for drug dealers) to lose a small load. They lose less money and not all of their shipment.

Alvarez was driving a Toyota pickup when he was stopped in Valencia for a mechanical violation and driving without a seat belt, the CHP said. The officer was enforcing the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign, a CHP spokesman said.

During the stop, the officer found Alvarez — who told investigators he was from Tracy — driving with an

expired license and acting unusual, according to the CHP.


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He was acting really strange and nervous, Sampson said. He was stuttering really bad, he was nervous and sweating, and the temperature wasnt that hot.

The officers dog sniffed around the vehicle, stood up on the pickups tailgate and made the officer aware of a handful of moving boxes in the bed.

Inside the boxes was a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine with a street value of about $40 million, according to investigators.

Sampson said drugs are usually hidden in compartments of vehicles, not found in the open bed of a pickup.

One kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds.

The suspect does not have a criminal history in San Joaquin County.

Mike Martinez can be reached at (209) 832-3947 or at mmartinez@trivalleyherald.com.