A South Dakota trooper made one of the largest local marijuana busts of the year this week when he discovered 99 pounds of marijuana that was reportedly bound for Ohio.
A Colorado man who was driving the rental car with the marijuana claimed this was his first smuggling run, according to court documents.
Bryce Cherpelis, 26, of Nederland is now being held in Pennington County Jail on a $200,000 bond. Cherpelis is charged with distribution and possession of marijuana. A conviction on either charge could result in a 15-year state prison sentence.
The largest pot bust this year in Pennington County was in January, when a Massachusetts man was charged with transporting 947 pounds of marijuana. In all of the cases involving large amounts of marijuana in the county, out-of-state residents were arrested.
On Monday, Cherpelis was clocked traveling 70 mph in a 65 mph zone about 10 miles east of Rapid City, and he was pulled over by South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Matt Oxner.
Oxner intended to give Cherpelis a warning ticket until the driver's reaction to the stop raised questions and the officer caught a whiff of marijuana on the man's clothing.
Cherpelis claimed he provided light shows for a band but was working as a DJ between events, according to court documents. He was driving a rental car picked up two days earlier in Reno, Nev., and due back Nov. 24. A receipt indicated Cherpelis paid more than $1,500 to rent the car.
As Cherpelis’ apparent nervousness increased, Oxner pressed him for details about his trip. He was vague about his travel plans beyond Columbus, Ohio, and denied having any drugs in the car, according to the officer's report.
With Cherpelis’ permission, Oxner walked his drug-detection dog around the car. The dog indicated it detected the scent of drugs.
During a search of the car, Oxner found three vacuum sealed bags weighing .3 ounces in a backpack on the front seat of the car. In the trunk were five large duffle bags filled with vacuum-packed bags of marijuana and a drug ledger in a notebook. Oxner also seized $793 in cash from Cherpelis.