More than 1,000 pounds of marijuana seized by FHP so far in 2022

FHP’s specialized contraband interdiction unit making big drug busts during traffic stops

State troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol are doing more than looking for traffic violations -- they are making big drug busts.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol are doing more than looking for traffic violations -- they are making big drug busts.

The latest involved a driver who they say sped through Jacksonville with nearly 60 pounds of marijuana.

According to an arrest report, a trooper pulled over Kenta Sato, 26, from California on Aug. 10, after Sato was spotted driving 62 mph in a 45 mph zone on Roosevelt Boulevard in Jacksonville.

Troopers said when they approached the vehicle, Sato’s hands “were visibly shaking along with his shirt fluttering.”

K-9 Ace, a drug-sniffing dog, was called to the scene and alerted on Sato’s SUV, which led to the discovery of the marijuana in two U-Haul boxes in the rear cargo area, according to the report. In each box were 29 vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana, each weighing about a pound.

FHP makes another big marijuana bust

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Sato told troopers he was visiting Jacksonville -- staying in a hotel -- and that he was on his way to a nearby restaurant.

He is charged with trafficking, according to the report. Troopers transported the marijuana from the car to the FHP evidence room.

This is the latest of several drug shipments busted on the streets of Jacksonville in the last several months, many of which have come from the west coast.

Behind the arrests, FHP’s specialized contraband interdiction unit, which uses technology, training, and K-9s like Ace to stop big drug shipments.

In June, the same team discovered 96 pounds of marijuana hidden in speaker boxes during a traffic stop. The driver was arrested on trafficking charges.

In May, they intercepted a shipment of 246 pounds of cannabis being stored in six freezers.

That same month, they seized 550 pounds of marijuana loaded into a van and arrested the driver.

“It’s definitely a big deal. No. 1, it’s illegal. It’s still illegal in the state of Florida to be transported and used in that capacity. It does not fall under our statutory regulations. But it also encourages other activity as well,” said FHP Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan.

Bryan explained that the drug busts often start with a simple traffic stop and troopers trained to spot signs that something isn’t right.

In one case, too much window tint led to 125 pounds of marijuana being found.

“This is another example of their hard work, putting the case together and making an arrest,” Bryan said.

Troopers said some cases are related and they expect to make more arrests soon.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

Macie is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She is a 2022 summer intern at News4JAX.