Traffic stop leads to $3M hidden in barrels of raw pork shoulders

CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — A traffic stop on Saturday led to the discovery of $3 million in cash hidden inside barrels of raw pork shoulders, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office said.

A deputy pulled over a tractor-trailer being driven by a man after the big rig was seen swerving and interrupting traffic flow on Interstate 85 south.

Deputies and a K-9 unit searched the 18-wheeler after the man started to act suspiciously and found the stash wrapped in cellophane.

The Sheriff’s Office believes the apparent drug money was heading to the U.S. and Mexico border.

[ALSO READ: Shot fired at SWAT during major drug bust in Lancaster County]

The Cleveland County sheriff said when he first saw the money, his first thought was about the loss it took to amass this amount of cash.

“How many lives were sacrificed or taken, either by homicide or drug overdose in order to obtain that type of proceeds from narcotics,” Sheriff Alan Norman said.

Sgt. B. Pearson has been with the Cleveland County Highway Interdiction team for 14 years.

"I don't think any of us has ever seen this amount of money,” he said.

Pearson said when his officers pulled over the truck driver, they became suspicious and asked for a search, leading to the discovery.

He was stunned by what he saw.

He said he can't discuss the details of the seizure, but he thinks they were very fortunate in this case.

"There are so many different ways to hide the money or hide the drugs. Sometimes we get lucky,” Pearson said.

His team is trained to detect hiding places and cut off the flow of drugs and drug money.

"It's a constant fight every day,” Pearson said.

He said drug dealers know that Interstate 85 leads up and down the East Coast, and you can easily branch off to get to the Great Lakes and key points west.

He worries about the drugs they haven’t found.

"All the different illegal drugs, from heroin to meth to marijuana and pills, it’s out there. It’s on the interstate every day,” Pearson said.

The U.S. Department of Justice is assisting with the investigation.

No arrests have been made.

>> Reading this story in our app? The new “Follow the Lead” feature allows you to tap the blue tag indicated with a '+' to subscribe to alerts on the very latest breaking news updates.