- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

Federal agents on Thursday arrested a man and woman on suspicion of possessing of 10 pounds of methamphetamine at a Lorton hotel — an amount thought to be the largest seized in the area in recent memory.

Maria Benita Santa-Maria, 34, of Dawson, Ala., and Nihad Jasarevic, 19, of no fixed address, were arrested early Thursday morning after reportedly trying to deliver 10 one-pound packages to an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at a Comfort Inn in Lorton.

“This is the largest meth seizure we’ve ever made in this region for ATF,” agency spokesman Mike Campbell said. “Anecdotally, people have said this is one of the largest in the region in a while.”

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug with effects similar to, but longer-lasting than, cocaine. It can be taken orally, injected or smoked and is often made in clandestine laboratories, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A 2006 report funded by the Department of Justice on meth use said the largest number of U.S. seizures were found in the West, Midwest and South. The report said use of the drug in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and some parts of the South was not as common, “but is appearing in subpopulations of users with increasing frequency.”

Court documents show that one of the federal agents arranged the Virginia distribution after being connected by a confidential source to a prisoner in New Jersey named Salvador Ayala.

Ayala — who is serving time on a conviction in Texas for meth distribution — reportedly told the source, who was his cellmate, that “his organization is trafficking in large amounts of cocaine into the U.S.,” the documents say. The cellmate said Ayala was interested in working with the agent to deliver cocaine to him in the Virginia area.

The agent talked with Ayala, another uncharged co-conspirator and finally to Miss Santa-Maria about “price, quantity and location for the delivery of the cocaine,” the documents say.

Miss Santa-Maria then traveled to Virginia, met the agent in a parking lot off Interstate 95 with Mr. Jasarevic and arrived at the Comfort Inn shortly after midnight Thursday.

At the hotel, Mr. Jasarevic removed the drugs from under the car and placed them in the back seat, documents say. An officer with the agent retrieved the drugs inside a bag and the two suspects were arrested.

Mr. Campbell said the street value of the drugs was between $300,000 and $400,000.

Miss Santa-Maria and Mr. Jasarevic face charges related to drug distribution and conspiracy. They are being held without bond, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.