Three Arizona women arrested last summer after state police allegedly found nearly 23 pounds of heroin hidden in a pickup truck during a Lehigh County traffic stop have been formally charged in federal court.
Martha Coughanour-Flores, 56, Anna Maria Chavez, 55, and Enjoli Monique Ward, 33, all of Tucson, were charged Tuesday with conspiracy to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and aiding and abetting.
The woman were arrested in July after a trooper stopped Coughanour-Flores for allegedly tailgating on Interstate 78 in Upper Macungie Township. Court documents say federal authorities had alerted agents in Pennsylvania that the truck would be in the area and possibly be carrying drugs.
Coughanour-Flores gave a state trooper permission to search her pickup truck and a police drug dog indicated the presence of narcotics.
Officers found 13 brick-shaped packages that tested positive for heroin. They were initially charged in Lehigh County District Court with possessing 13 kilograms of heroin worth $13 million, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration took over the case in August.
The charges filed Tuesday indicate the weight of the heroin after packaging had been removed was about 10 kilograms. The women were charged by information, which means they have given up their right for a grand jury to decide whether charges are warranted and are likely to plead guilty.
Attorneys for the women did not return calls.
According to a court document filed in federal court in August, DEA agents in Arizona alerted counterparts in Allentown that Coughanour-Flores’ truck would be passing through the area July 25, possibly carrying illegal drugs.
After the traffic stop and arrests, Ward described Coughanour-Flores as the ringleader. She told federal agents that Coughanour-Flores; Ward’s mother, Chavez; and Ward’s 3-year-old daughter left Tucson three days before they were arrested in Pennsylvania on what she believed was a “dry run” to learn how to smuggle drugs.
Ward told agents that she had previously made runs from Arizona to the East Coast five or six times and had been paid between $1,000 and $2,000. Ward said she had been stopped by law enforcement in June and had lost 4 kilograms of heroin, so Coughanour-Flores took her on a run to give her experience in smuggling. Ward told agents that she didn’t know the pickup was loaded until after they left Arizona and headed toward the Lehigh Valley, court documents say.
On the same day that the women were arrested in Pennsylvania, DEA and Homeland Security Investigations agents obtained warrants and raided Coughanour-Flores’ properties in Tucson, seizing an additional quantity of cocaine.
No court date has been set for Coughanour-Flores, Chavez or Ward.