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Used van came with $500K of cocaine

A California man got a lot more than he expected when he purchased a used minivan last year.

By Giselle Smith Nov 14, 2011 7:17PM
When Charles Preston purchased a used Chrysler minivan for $14,000 in May 2010, he thought he was getting a pretty good deal. The 2008 vehicle was in pristine condition and had power steering, foldaway seats and tinted windows. So what if the windows wouldn't roll down all the way?

The van came with one extra Preston hadn't asked for -- half a million dollars' worth of cocaine, hidden inside the frame.

Preston discovered the cellophane-wrapped packages of cocaine -- the drugs were the reason the windows weren't working -- when he took the van to have its brakes checked in August, the Mercury News reported on Sunday. The San Jose, Calif., psychologist immediately reported the find to police, who told him to have the van checked for a tracking device, and then get rid of it.

"People make jokes -- 'Oh, you should have sold it,'" Preston told the Mercury News. "But honestly, I've never been so scared in my life, even when I was mugged in New York."

San Jose police said Preston's worries are justified, the newspaper reported:
"It's absolutely dangerous," said Sgt. Jason Dwyer, a police spokesman. "If somebody is motivated to track down that van and doesn't want any witnesses, then some physical harm could come to the owner. That's a lot of dope to be misplaced."

Police were unable to trace the cocaine to a particular source or dealers, the Mercury News reported, but its packaging indicated that it may have been intended for long-distance travel.


Risks of buying rental cars

The van had been owned at one time by a rental car company, and may have been rented by someone who used it for smuggling.


The chance that a car has been used for illegal activities is one risk of buying a former rental car. Rental cars are one common overland means of smuggling drugs into the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Post continues below.

Last month, a judge in British Columbia ruled that a woman driving a rental car must have known about the cash and more than 20 kilograms of marijuana inside the car, The Kamloops Daily News reported.


Many car-buying experts say there's nothing wrong with buying former rental cars, but many people shy away from it because they think renters may have abused them, reported. Executives from Automobile Consumer Services Corp. told Edmonds that rental companies buy vehicles at low prices, sell them after just one year, and usually take good care of them, so buyers can potentially get good deals.


In addition, rental vehicles often have low mileage, which makes them a good compromise between buying new and getting an older used model, according to Accurate Auto Advice.

A happy ending

 Preston didn't purchase the white Town and Country van from a rental agency, however. He bought it at Thrifty Car Sales in Santa Clara, Calif. And when Preston initially contacted Thrifty about returning the van, he said the company was willing to credit him only current Blue Book value, which he refused. Thrifty has since agreed to take the van back and give him a drug-free ride.


Preston, who bought the minivan to deliver food to homeless people, is glad he didn't get pulled over for a traffic violation, in which a routine search could have turned up the drugs and landed him in jail.

And he says it gives him quite a story to tell now when he meets new people.


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Nov 14, 2011 10:51PM

Decriminalize drugs. Quit wasting my tax dollars on an unwinnable war.


Mitigate the damage, control is the answer. For that you need to decriminalize and legalize. It was the same with alcohol, legalization brought control. During prohibition, child alcoholism was an epidemic. It ended with legalization. Because dealers dont care who they sell to, a licensed store has to obey the rules.


End the tax drain and the damage to society. End the attack on personal freedoms. Control the problem!

Do you think this is dangerous to include the mans name in the article. What good would it do to remove or look for a tracking device if the crazy reporters use your name. Reporters need to use their head. Stop using peoples name in all your articles.
Nov 14, 2011 10:29PM
I guess you could say it was a minivan that turned into a "snow"mobile.......
Nov 14, 2011 10:23PM

the van originaly must've been en route to a senate hearing and got derailed before our elected officials got their goodies.seems like they're all on something with the decisions they make concerning the future of this country.

Nov 14, 2011 10:10PM
get rid of it. thats what the police say? great the guy has an investment into the van and the cops say get it checked for a tracking device and get rid of it?maybe you think the police would investigate further?naww .. to busy sitting side by side in their crown vics and eating donuts while they b.s.
Nov 15, 2011 7:01AM
How did They overlook giving his address and phone #, Thats just great, Thrifty rental car and the news agancy that reported  the guys name and occupation should pay to put this poor bastard in a protection program. Dead man walking  . . . . . . . . .
Nov 14, 2011 9:39PM
hmmm worried about a tracking device so we give his name    smart move

Nov 14, 2011 10:10PM
Dope dealers been doing this for years. They have an In at a rental car company. One renter picks up the dope ( sometimes even putting a trap in the car)- and the next renter delivers it. If the the police stop the auto-- how do you prove "intent" the renter just rented the vehicle? Something must have interrupted the whole transaction. Intent can be proved but it is very hard with a rental.
Nov 14, 2011 9:53PM
I would think that Thrifty Car Sales would have at least tried to repair the window problem before putting it on the market.
Nov 15, 2011 9:20AM
We have square grouper here in Florida. Sometimes just washes ashore and you have to share with the surfers. I have seen retires grab a couple of lbs while walking the poodle on the beach and boy can they move when contraband is being grabbed at.
Nov 15, 2011 8:55AM
If I had bought that van they would have only found $250,000.00 of
Nov 14, 2011 10:30PM
Nov 14, 2011 10:18PM
Fret not, tl27, nothing you see in blogs is real - including this...
Nov 15, 2011 11:51AM
Nov 15, 2011 3:41AM
That story has more holes than any of Krispy Kreme's donuts.
Nov 15, 2011 9:12AM
The perps are probably milking the taxpayer for food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment and fighting for a disability.
Nov 15, 2011 7:49AM
Even the cops aren't that dumb. Sounds like they're setting up the crooks.
Nov 14, 2011 10:45PM
No, DonEdefender, they won't - do you REALLY want the limited LE resources spent on chasing Weblog responders? I was a member of a underground BBS in Los Angeles in the early '90s - even after they busted the 'board, 99% of us never saw a cop - and we WERE *ahem* ACTIVE members.  With rape, murder, mayhem & riots to deal with, cops have better ways to track down wrongdoers than to peruse a list. Jeez, man, it took a decade to catch the biggest mass murderer on U.S. soil - and YOU would have the FBI monitor the 'blogs? Funny...
Nov 14, 2011 11:13PM
He probably could have used it to stay awake while listening to idiots ramble on in his
Nov 15, 2011 5:03AM
I hope Hermie was not on that stuff when he could not come up with the answersSmile.  Or if he is, hopefully he does not inhale.
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