Second meth suspects claims no knowledge that drug was being transported – La Crosse Tribune

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A second defendant in a La Crosse County drug bust has claimed no knowledge about a substantial amount of methamphetamine found by police during a Jan. 20 traffic stop.
Armando Lara-Nieto, 49, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, pleaded not guilty Friday in La Crosse County Circuit Court to a single felony charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.
Judge Scott Horne accepted the plea and found probable cause to forward the case to trial.
Lara-Nieto was arrested, along with Emmanuel Flores Sauceda, 39, Hudson, and Juventino Lara Plancarte, 53, Los Angeles, after police reportedly found nearly 11 pounds of methamphetamine in their possession during a traffic stop on Interstate 90.
Flores Sauceda and Lara Plancarte also face the intent to deliver charges.
La Crosse Police Department drug investigator James Mancuso testified that Lara-Nieto told him he was unaware illegal drugs were being stashed inside a backpack that police found in the vehicle’s trunk.
“He just said his friend needed a ride to meet a friend in La Crosse,” Mancuso said.
A day earlier, Flores Sauceda’s attorney made a similar argument during his preliminary hearing.
Under questioning by Lara-Nieto’s attorney, Brian Severson, Mancuso said there was no other evidence linking Lara-Nieto to the drugs other than his presence in the vehicle.
Mancuso testified that police were conducting surveillance on northside La Crosse hotels when they observed a vehicle operated by Lara-Nieto making suspiciously long stops without anyone exiting. The vehicle was later pulled over by a Wisconsin State Patrol officer for an illegally tinted windshield.
Lara-Nieto is being held in the La Crosse County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond.
Also on Friday, Lara Plancarte stood mute during an arraignment. Horne entered a not guilty plea on Lara Plancarte’s behalf.
Lara Plancarte, who recently completed a nine-year sentence for drug trafficking, is being held in the La Crosse County Jail on a $150,000 cash bond.
Flores Sauceda was released from the La Crosse County Jail after posting a $25,000 cash bond. He was arrested by Hudson police on drug charges Feb. 7 and is being held in the St. Croix County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond.
Lara Nieto

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.
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Lara Nieto
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