It wasn't an ordinary traffic stop.
In fact, it was nothing like what Georgia State Patrol Trooper Tommy Crafton had ever encountered before during his 18 years on the job.
He and some fellow troopers had just finished eating lunch at a restaurant near Thomson last Wednesday afternoon and was heading back to the patrol post to do additional work. As he passed along Washington Road near Interstate 20, Trooper Crafton spotted the driver of an 18-wheel tractor trailer rig pull out in front of a northbound vehicle.
The trucker subsequently was stopped by the trooper about noon and that's when things got interesting - to the tune of nearly $120,000 in cash later being discovered in a hidden compartment of the trailer after the driver became suspicious when he was asked certain questions by Trooper Crafton. The money is believed to have come from illicit drugs that had been hauled in the trailer.
Georgia State Patrol Lt. Donnie Smith praised Trooper Crafton for his alertness in making the traffic stop and finding the cash.
"Tommy was very alert and it paid off in a lot of ways," Lt. Smith told The McDuffie Mirror. "I'm proud of his performance."
Trooper Crafton, who works as an education officer in 12 school systems in East Central Georgia and lives in Thomson, also was responsible for making an arrest in the case.
The suspect was identified as 29-year-old Roberto Trevino, of Mission, Tex. He was charged with failure to use a turn signal, failure to yield right of way, failure to have a truck driver's log book and operating a truck with a radar detector, according to Trooper Crafton. Mr. Trevino was taken to the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson where he remained on Tuesday.
Additional charges could be filed against him since agents with the U.S. Customs Service are now involved in an ongoing investigation as a result of his arrest by state authorities.
Trooper Crafton said the answers that he received from the suspect "his stories just weren't adding up." It led him to gain consent from the driver to search the vehicle, which transpired in the parking lot of Love's Truck Stop.
That's when things ultimately transpired with authorities measuring the trailer at 53 feet and later discovering that the inside of the trailer measured only 49.8 feet in length.
"I knew something was wrong then," Trooper Crafton said. "I suspected that there could be a hidden compartment."
Sure enough, his hunch was correct.
The money, wrapped in plastic and consisting of dollar bills all the way up to $100 bills, was found in a hidden wall behind a false radiator, Trooper Crafton said. A total of $119,965, he added.
A K-9 trooper and dog named "Gino" from the Georgia State Patrol Criminal Intervention Unit in Madison was called to the scene, as were additional troopers from the GSP post in Thomson. Those troopers included Sgt. Perry Hobbs, Cpl. Chris Wright and Ben Rollins. Also assisting in the investigation was Richmond County Sheriff's Department Deputy Robbie Harrison, who brought a drug dog to the scene, too.
Trooper Crafton said the case was worked for more than four hours. He said the truck driver told him that he had made deliveries in Atlanta, Virginia and North Carolina after departing from Texas. Although no drugs were found in the trailer or in the cab of the truck, at least one of the dogs alerted that drugs had been onboard at one time.