Central Wis. couple now face federal charges in big pot bust - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Central Wis. couple now face federal charges in big pot bust


A Tomahawk man and a Wausau woman arrested following police chases that led to the seizure of nearly 300 pounds of marijuana and some guns now face federal drug charges, U.S. Attorney Scott Blader said Wednesday.

A grand jury indicted Joel Helding, 32, of Tomahawk and Valerie Flores, 25, of Wausau with possessing 220 pounds or more of marijuana with intent to distribute in the Jan. 18 incident in western Wisconsin, Blader said.

Helding was also charged with possessing loaded 9mm and .380-caliber pistols in a drug trafficking crime, the prosecutor said.

The maximum punishment for the drug charge is 40 years in prison, Blader said.

The pair already were charged with several felonies in Trempealeau County, where they were arrested. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The pair - Helding driving a GMC Yukon and Flores a Subaru Forester - were being followed on Interstate 94 by law enforcement officers in a drug probe before the State Patrol was summoned to make the stops, the state complaint said.

Helding was captured after driving on a dead end road and attempting to flee on foot, the complaint said. He was carrying a loaded gun.

Flores was stopped after a trooper hit the rear side of her car with the front of his, hers spun out of control and it ended in a ditch, following a chase that reached speeds up to 80 mph, the complaint said.

Two stun guns were found in Flores' vehicle, along with a "journal containing possible pertinent information" and some Mexican paper currency, the complaint said.

Investigators found 182 pounds of marijuana in Helding's Yukon and 111 pounds in Flores' car, the complaint said.

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