ICE officer busted on drug charges after Arizona chase

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2011 10:13 PM
ICE officer busted on drug charges after Arizona chase

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration officer in Arizona was arrested on drug charges after leading authorities on a high-speed chase as he tossed bundles of marijuana from his government truck, state troopers said on Wednesday.

Jason Lowery, a deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was taken into custody on Tuesday in southern Arizona following a 45-minute pursuit that ended when his vehicle flipped, troopers said. Lowery, 34, suffered minor injuries.

The Phoenix-area officer was booked into a Pinal County jail on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, according to court records. A suspected co-conspirator, Joshua Powell, was arrested at his home.

Vincent Picard, an ICE spokesman, said the agency was cooperating with investigators.

"We hold our officers and agents to the highest levels of responsibility and are committed to supporting the agencies investigating this incident," he said in a statement.

A law-enforcement task force of police and federal agents had placed Lowery under surveillance since early September following reports from three sources that he may be corrupt, said Officer Carrick Cook, an Arizona Public Safety Department spokesman.

Cook said authorities had set out 500 pounds of marijuana in the desert and let Lowery know through sources where it could be found. Investigators then watched as he picked up 14 bundles of the drug and loaded them into a truck.

"He drove around in circles for awhile," Cook said. "We stopped his vehicle and then he took off."

Authorities said Lowery threw 10 of the 14 bundles out of his vehicle during an ensuing chase that reached speeds of 110 miles per hour over rural and desert roads. The pursuit came to a halt when Lowery rolled his truck, which landing on its roof near Sacaton, Arizona, about 40 miles south of Phoenix.

Inside the vehicle were the remaining four bundles of marijuana, authorities said.

In a separate case last week, a U.S. Border Patrol agent caught with more than 700 pounds of marijuana inside his truck was convicted in Arizona of drug-trafficking charges.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)