Drug convict had novel method to whisk away evidence

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:34 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Kentucky man sentenced in federal court Monday for his involvement in a plan to distribute methamphetamine in Callaway County also had a plan for getting rid of the contraband: He stuffed it into a rocket that could be shot from the trunk of his car.

Joseph C. Seidl, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to 15 years in federal prison without parole.

According to an affidavit by Drug Enforcement Agency special agent Steve Mattas, on the night of June 24, 2005, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper stopped Seidl and Michael R. Sullivan, 41, also of Kentucky, on a traffic violation as they were driving near Interstate 70 and U.S. 54 in Kingdom City.

Sullivan, who denied consent to have his car searched, ran away after trooper Tommy Walley called for another officer to come to the scene with a dog. Sullivan was later apprehended and arrested after Walley realized he had dropped a small bag of what police suspected to be methamphetamine on the ground.

When Walley started searching Sullivan’s car, he discovered a bundle of cash, totaling $12,000, hidden underneath newspaper by the passenger’s seat. Then he opened the trunk.

Walley said as pulled the lid open, he found a 3- to 4-foot tall hobby-style rocket that was controlled by ropes and pulleys lifted to an upright position. A series of wires running from a homemade switch in the front of the car was connected to a set of eight explosive charges at the bottom of the rocket. The wires, which the Bomb Squad later determined to be functional, were powered by the cigarette lighter adapter.

“They put a lot of thought and effort into it, that’s for sure,” Walley said.

After the power was disconnected, drug agents removed a cone from the top of the rocket and found two gallon-sized Ziploc bags containing a large quantity of methamphetamine concealed inside. It was later determined that nearly two pounds, or 917 grams, of the drug were inside the bags.

Don Ledford, public affairs officer for the U.S. attorney general in Missouri’s Western District, said the rocket was rigged to be launched by a button inside the vehicle. Once the button was pushed, he said, the trunk lid was supposed to open, position the rocket in an upright position and launch it.

“Obviously it didn’t work very well in this instance,” Ledford said.

Three fake pipe bombs containing methamphetamine were also found in the trunk.

On June 24, Seidl pleaded guilty to his plans to distribute the methamphetamine. Sullivan, who pleaded guilty on June 22, was sentenced to four years in prison without parole on Oct 11.

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