On July 21, San Diego sheriff’s deputies in Vista pulled over a 2003 Ford Fusion with a busted taillight. The deputies soon noticed the car had a hollowed rear bumper and a spare set of keys in the car’s door. The console and air filter box were both loose and missing screws.

In their minds, those were all signs of a car being used to smuggle drugs.

The driver, Adrian Lopez, didn’t have a license, but in his wallet were cards of “saints associated with narcotics trafficking,” along with a handwritten prayer referencing Santa Muerte — a narcotics trafficking saint. To the deputies, these were yet more signs of drug trafficking.

Although a drug-sniffing dog “gave a positive alert,” deputies only found a padlocked backpack in the trunk which they opened with the set of keys in the door. Inside was a plastic bag with a sock. Inside the sock, wrapped in a skull and crossbones bandana, was $9,000 in cash.

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