IREDELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Three people were arrested on marijuana trafficking and possession charges in Iredell County Thursday morning.
According to the Iredell County Sheriff's Office, deputies with the Iredell County and Rowan County Sheriff's Offices were observing traffic on Interstate 77 Thursday operating under Operation Tar Heel Gauntlet.
This operation in an ongoing effort to stop or slow illegal drug traffic and deter other types of crimes on the interstates in North Carolina working in conjunction with the Homeland Security Service.
A deputy stopped a Chevrolet Cavalier with Ohio tags Thursday morning for a moving violation near the 50 mile marker on I-77 north.
Officials spoke with the driver, 39-year-old Jennifer Ann Heater, before a canine was used to sniff the car. The canine discovered illegal drugs in the vehicle.
A search of the car located $18,000 worth of hash oil and two vaporizers under a blanket and jacket in the back seat.
Heater was transported to the Iredell County Detention Center where she was charged with felony possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance, She was given a $10,000 dollars secured bond.
Later Thursday morning, an Audi SUV was spotted following another vehicle too closely near the 61 Mile Marker on I-77 south.
A traffic stop was conducted and after approaching the vehicle to speak with the driver, 57-year-old Richard Xiong, the deputy noticed the driver was acting very suspiciously and nervously.
Xiong was not making much sense and had trouble re-telling his plans when he was asked where he was traveling.
When deputies asked about drugs in the car, Xiong said he had 20 pounds of marijuana in the rear cargo area.
A woman in the car, 54-year-old Lee Zoua, was removed from the SUV as a canine discovered illegal drugs.
Deputies conducted a hand search of the vehicle and located three large duffle bags with several vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana inside.
In all, $348,000 of hydroponic marijuana was seized, weighing 45.7 pounds.
Both Richard Xiong and Lee Zoua were taken into custody and transported to the Iredell County Detention Center.
Both were charged with felony trafficking of Schedule VI controlled substance by transport, felony trafficking of Schedule VI controlled substance by possession, and felony possession of a Schedule VI Controlled substance with intent to sell and deliver.
Xiong was given a $50,000 secured bond.
It was determined Zoua had an outstanding arrest warrant out of Hickory.
She was given a $50,000 secured bond for the marijuana charges and a $1,000 secured bond for the outstanding warrant.