An effective car commercial goes out of its way to convince would-be car owners that driving a new vehicle is an exhilarating, almost addictive experience. But San Jose psychologist Charles Preston wound up making this association a bit too literally, when he learned that the vehicle he'd purchased was carrying half a million dollars' worth of cocaine.
From the San Jose Mercury News:
Preston had no clue there was a cellophane-wrapped stash of 'snow' hidden inside the frame when he bought the pristine-condition, 2008 van last year from Thrifty Car Sales in Santa Clara. True, the windows wouldn't roll down all the way. But he had no reason to suspect it was because the door panels were crammed with kilos of coke.
Preston continued to drive the minivan in blissful ignorance for 15 months until taking it into the shop for maintenance on the brakes. That's when he and the mechanic discovered the 14 tablet sized packages of contraband, which Preston immediately turned over to police. The cops later found an additional 5 packages tucked away above the car's wheels.
"People make jokes -- oh, you should have sold it," Preston said of the cocaine. "But honestly, I've never been so scared in my life, even when I was mugged in New York."
San Jose police say Preston's right to be scared. They've suggested that he get the van fully inspected to unearth any tracking devices that a Mexican drug cartel could have planted. Area police also note that if Preston had been pulled over by authorities before he'd turned over the cocaine, he could have been arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
"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."
Still, despite this all-too unnerving threat, Preston has refused to trade the van in, saying the mileage he's put on the car has reduced its Blue Book value by several thousand dollars. Still, as Preston notes, you can't really put a price on a good story.
"When someone says, 'Tell me about yourself,' " he said, "I'll finally have something interesting to talk about."