The Volkswagen Touareg is known for its upscale interior styling, durability and capability both on and off the road.
State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement agents were more interested in the vehicle's wheel wells.
Gerardo Medina Hernandez was dismantling the front wheel wells of a Volkswagen Touareg, which had false compartments built in them to hide the drug, when agents from the state bureau and other agencies arrived at his residence in the 1700 block of West Lincoln Avenue on Saturday to serve a search warrant, according to the BNE's Scott Gerber.
The Anaheim man pleaded not guilty later Tuesday to charges stemming from the record seizure of 95 pounds of black tar heroin with an estimated street value of $10 million. In announcing the arrest, state Attorney General Jerry Brown said the black tar heroin, which is produced in Mexico, has a wholesale value of $1.3 million and was a record seizure for the BNE, which was established in 1927.
Hernandez, a 25-year-old Mexican national with a green card, allegedly used his home, which had no furniture aside from some air mattresses and a television, to store the narcotics.
He has no known prior criminal record in California, Gerber said.
He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of felony counts of transporting a controlled substance, possession for sale of a controlled substance and a sentencing enhancement for possessing more than 40 kilograms of narcotics, said Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Orlando Lopez, senior special agent in charge of the BNE, said Hernandez was the first to be arrested in an investigation that has been under way for about two months. He declined to say what sparked the probe.
"I can't say what started the investigation," Lopez said. "We want to continue digging and don't want to jeopardize it. We want to find out the source. Even if it's in Mexico, we'll try to get indictments on both sides of the border."
Lopez said agents in his bureau work with authorities in Mexico.
Asked if he anticipated more arrests at Orange County, he said, "Not at this time," but declined to say where he expects the investigation to take the agents.