Cocaine seizure was not biggest in Nevada history

If relative size matters, then Wednesday's cocaine bust wasn't as impressive as police officials originally said.

Las Vegas police confirmed Thursday that what was touted as the largest cocaine haul in Nevada history -- the seizure of 452 pounds of the drug from a big rig stopped on Interstate 15 near Jean -- was trumped by a much bigger cocaine bust in 1993.

According to a Review-Journal article, on Jan. 31, 1993, Las Vegas police discovered 851 pounds of cocaine on a coach bus. The initial search turned up nearly 370 pounds of the drug. A later search uncovered an additional 481 pounds of cocaine after two more hidden compartments were found on the bus by narcotics officers while it was parked in the police impound lot, the article said.

The 1993 drug bust also occurred on I-15. Two Henderson residents were arrested in connection with the seizure.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Bill Cassell said Thursday afternoon that a department official misspoke when he said Wednesday's cocaine haul was the largest ever in the history of the Silver State.

"The lieutenant was not trying to mislead anybody or blow any horns," Cassell said of comments made by Lt. Laz Chavez of the department's narcotics section. "He certainly did not mean to imply that the 1993 case never happened."

Wednesday's bust began with a routine traffic stop by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper who was later assisted by a Las Vegas police detective. Both officers were part of a state and federal drug task force that also consists of officers with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Henderson police. The cocaine seized had a street value of more than $16 million, police said.

Chavez, who spoke on behalf of the task force during a news conference, meant to say that Wednesday's seizure was the largest in Southern Nevada since the inception of the task force in 2002, Cassell said.

He added that officers in the task force deserve a lot of credit, noting, "the world is a safer place because we got these drugs off the street," Cassell said.

Wednesday's bust occurred about 12:30 a.m. when a semitrailer was driving erratically northbound on Interstate 15, about 30 miles from Las Vegas.

The driver of truck, 51-year-old Gaston Danjou, acted nervously when the state trooper pulled him over, a police report said. Danjou's truck was registered to him. He had a Canadian driver's license and plates from Quebec.

The report said that after a records check, the trooper decided not to issue Danjou a traffic citation. But the trooper continued questioning him, asking Danjou whether there was anything illegal inside the truck.

"I then asked him if he had any marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin. To each he said no, but he was unable to maintain eye contact while doing so," the report said.

Danjou then agreed to let officers search his truck. A drug-sniffing dog discovered the cocaine in secret compartments in the truck's bed.

Danjou is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on recommended charges of possession of cocaine, trafficking cocaine and transporting a controlled substance.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review or 702-383-4638.