- The officer was seen throwing marijuana out of his truck during the chase, officials say
- A preliminary hearing for Jason Lowery is set for next week
- Agents had Lowery under surveillance, court documents say
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention officer was arrested this week on suspicion of marijuana possession after a pursuit in which he was seen throwing bundles of marijuana out the window of his truck, according to federal court documents.
Jason Alistair Lowery was arrested Tuesday after the chase, which ended when he lost control of his truck and overturned, according to the documents. He is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.
Lowery, of Chandler, Arizona, appeared in federal court Wednesday, according to court records and an arrest report. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Tuesday. If convicted, Lowery faces between 15 and 40 years in prison, said Manuel Tarango, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix.
A call to the attorney listed in court records as representing Lowery, Rebecca Felmly, was not immediately returned Thursday.
Lowery began duty as a deportation officer for ICE in August 2008, ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said in a statement.
"ICE is cooperating with federal and state authorities in this matter," Picard said. "We hold our officers and agents to the highest levels of responsibility and are committed to supporting the agencies investigating this incident."
Agents had Lowery under surveillance after an agent in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General received information this month from a confidential informant, according to the criminal complaint.
The informant told the agent of involvement with a law enforcement officer and a narcotics smuggler in smuggling marijuana, the documents said. The scheme included the law enforcement officer "using his status ... to assist in the theft of marijuana from undocumented aliens," according to the complaint.
The informant made recorded phone calls to both the law enforcement officer and the narcotics smuggler, and authorities learned the law enforcement officer was to pick up 500 pounds of marijuana, using his government-issued pickup, the documents said. He would then take the marijuana to the smuggler's home.
On Tuesday, federal and state authorities watched as a man loaded bundles of marijuana into the government-owned truck and drove toward the smuggler's residence in Arizona City, Arizona, the complaint said. He got about a mile away and "was observed exiting his truck and looking around," then began driving in the opposite direction, according to the documents.
Agents attempted to stop the truck, and the driver pulled over, but as officers got out of their cars, he "sped off at a high rate of speed," the complaint said.
"While in pursuit ... agents observed bundles of marijuana being thrown from the truck," the complaint said. "Agents and officers recovered approximately 11 bundles of marijuana along the chase route."
The chase proceeded down a dirt road along a canal, and the man lost control of his truck and overturned, documents said. The law enforcement officer, identified as Lowery, excited his truck and surrendered to agents.
After being advised of his Miranda rights, the complaint said, Lowery "admitted to his involvement in smuggling marijuana ... including on the date of his arrest."
The alleged narcotics smuggler, identified as Joshua Powell, was also arrested Tuesday, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Authorities executed a search warrant on Powell's home and found 14 firearms that he was not allowed to possess under Arizona law, the department said.
At the time of his arrest, Powell was "out on a $25,000 bond stemming from a previous investigation finished approximately three weeks ago that culminated with a search warrant of his residence," the department said in a statement. "During that particular search warrant, numerous ballistic armor vests, weapons including a stolen rifle, stolen night vision equipment, and hundreds of ammunition of different calibers were located along with significant amounts of meth, heroin, steroids, prescription pills and other paraphernalia."