- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

Federal agents Thursday arrested a man and woman authorities say were in possession of 10 pounds of methamphetamine at a Lorton hotel — an amount of the drug 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 trying to deliver 10 one-pound packages to an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at a Comfort Inn in Lorton.

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

Court documents show that one of the 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 also 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 Miss Santa-Maria about transporting the drugs to Virginia and “discussed 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 of Interstate 95 with Mr. Jasarevic and later went to the Comfort Inn shortly after midnight Thursday.

At the hotel, Mr. Jasarevic removed the drugs from under the car and placed them in the backseat, 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.

• Gary Emerling can be reached at gemerling@washingtontimes.com.

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