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Father, son claimed to be hauling Super Bowl fan gear, but had $1.1 million in drugs, police say

Robert Earl Smith (left) & Christopher Conkey (right)1 / 4
Morton County Sheriff's Office K-9 Gabber poses for a photo Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, between boxes containing more than 200 pounds of marijuana and other drugs he sniffed out that day after an Interstate 94 traffic stop in North Dakota. Morton County Sheriff's Office / Special to The Forum2 / 4
Christopher Conkey, 24, Grants Pass, Ore. (Burleigh/Morton County Detention Center)3 / 4
Robert Earl Smith (left) & Christopher Conkey (right)4 / 4

MANDAN, N.D. — A father and son face felony charges after a search of their vehicle on Interstate 94 found more than 200 pounds of marijuana and other illegal drugs Sunday, Feb. 4.

The Morton County Sheriff's Office reported a deputy arrested Robert Earl Smith, 53, of Vancouver, Wash., and Christopher Conkey, 24, of Grants Pass, Ore., at about 10 a.m. Sunday for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver after illegal drugs valued at $1.1 million were found during the search after a routine traffic stop.

When the deputy asked Conkey, the driver, about the reason for their travel, Conkey indicated the pair were transporting fan gear to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. After observing suspicious behavior, the deputy asked to search the vehicle, but was denied. Both Conkey and Smith denied having anything illegal in the pickup.

Conkey and Smith were moved to a patrol car due to extremely cold temperatures while a K-9 named Gabber sniffed around the vehicle and signaled the presence of narcotics. A search revealed a banker's bag with about $2,400 in cash, and large boxes holding multiple heat-sealed bags were found under a topper in the truck bed.

A Metro Area Narcotics Task Force officer investigated the bags, and one of the bags revealed a green leafy substance and smelled like raw marijuana once opened.

The vehicle was then towed to the Burleigh/Morton County Detention Center, and a search warrant was granted by a judge. A subsequent search Sunday afternoon found 210 pounds of raw marijuana, 5 pounds of THC wax or shatter (a processed, concentrated form of the psychoactive chemical in marijuana) and 8 grams of methamphetamine.

Conkey and Smith were transported to the Burleigh/Morton County Detention Center, where they were listed as inmates Monday, Feb. 5.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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