A Texas man who was arrested west of Casper with 70 pounds of methamphetamine in his car earlier this month now faces federal charges, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

Samuel Mercedes Rivera, 40, is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, according to the indictment.

Conviction of each federal count is punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment, and not less than five years of supervised probation after release from custody, according to the indictment.

The U.S. Attorney's Office also filed a motion to detain Mercedes Rivera because of the possible 10-plus years imprisonment punishment, and to assure that he would appear in court and for the safety of the community.

A week ago, Mercedes Rivera initially was charged in Natrona County District Court with felony counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, and possession of methamphetamine.

If the case had gone to trial in Natrona County District Court and he was convicted, the state punishments for conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver would have been up to 20 years imprisonment on each count.

Despite the possible lesser punishments, Circuit Court Judge Steve Brown ordered Mercedes Rivera to be held on a $250,000 cash bond during the initial appearance on March 22.

The case started about noon March 19 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 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 DEA 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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