A California man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after law enforcement officers found eight pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a spare tire of the rental vehicle he was driving.

Manuel Paz Sanchez, Jr., 32, of Sacramento, Calif., pleaded guilty in May to possession with intent to distribute meth.

Sanchez was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison and to five years of supervised release.

The prosecution said in court records that a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped a Ford sedan that Sanchez was driving on Dec. 12, 2017 near Columbus.

Sanchez had rented the vehicle three days earlier in Sacramento and told the trooper he was driving to Bismarck, N.D. from Idaho, where he had been visiting family.

Sanchez planned to fly back to California from Bismarck. Sanchez also told the trooper he had been in Yellowstone National Park to visit Yogi Bear. The trooper found Sanchez’s story suspicious and asked permission to search the vehicle. Sanchez consented.

Law enforcement officers found in the car a tire repair kit, which they thought was unusual for a rental vehicle. Officers removed the spare tire from the trunk and the spare appeared to be deflated. Officers took the spare to a repair shop in Columbus, where the tire was removed from the rim. Inside the tire were six, vacuum-sealed packages containing approximately 8.3 pounds, or about 30,000 doses, of meth.

Information in this article was provided by the United States Department of Justice.

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