A Texas man was charged with three felony drug counts after law enforcement officers found nearly 79 pounds of methamphetamine in the car he was driving west of Casper on Friday, according to court documents.

Samuel Mercedes-Rivera, 40, appeared in Natrona County Circuit Court on Monday and heard the three felony counts: conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; and possession of methamphetamine, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

Assistant District Attorney Sam Forshner recommended that Mercedes-Rivera be held on a $250,000 cash bond, and Circuit Court Judge Steve Brown agreed.

Mercedes-Rivera told Brown that he had lived in El Paso, Texas, for 10 years, and that he was a disabled veteran with carpal tunnel syndrome, tinnitus, and back spasms.

The case started about noon Friday when a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer stopped Mercedes-Rivera on Wyoming Highway 220 near Goose Egg Road for driving 75 mph in a 65 mph zone, according to an affidavit accompanying the charging document.

Mercedes-Rivera was wearing all military camouflage in a Mazda with South Carolina registration, identified himself as being in the Army, presented a Texas veteran's driver's license, and said he borrowed the car from his staff sergeant. He later said the Mazda was a friend's wife's car.

He said he was traveling from El Paso to Minnesota to visit his mother, but later said she lived in New York, according to the affidavit.

The Highway Patrol officer contacted a Casper Police Department K9 officer to conduct a vehicle sniff.

The dog alerted, officers searched the car and found a military-style duffle bag weighing between 60 pounds and 100 pounds with black-taped packages inside, according to the affidavit. "From the Officers training and experience the suspected bundles were wrapped like controlled substances are when they are in transport, for bulk delivery."

Meanwhile, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation officers arrived, and field-tested the suspected substance, which was presumed positive for methamphetamine. The suspected controlled substance was taken to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's office in Casper.

The methamphetamine was packaged in 67 bundles and the total weighed 78.93 pounds.

Mercedes-Rivera also was taken to the office.

Mercedes-Rivera said he picked up the methamphetamine either in California or Texas and was taking it to Minnesota, and then would take money to other locations, according to the affidavit.

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