Elizabeth Espinoza of Ruskin, Florida, was arrested after troopers say they discovered more than $1.2 million worth of cocaine in her vehicle.
She was pulled over on Interstate 75 in Sumter County, Florida, on January 7, 2020. The Florida Highway Patrol said that Espinoza, 27, was stopped because her vehicle’s windows were illegally tinted. The routine traffic stop was escalated because the trooper felt that Espinoza’s demeanor was suspicious.
A search of online public records in Florida shows that Espinoza has a history of past arrests in the state.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Troopers Called In a K-9 Unit Because Elizabeth Espinoza was Acting ‘Overtly Nervous’
The Florida Highway Patrol explained in a statement that troopers noticed Elizabeth Espinoza as she was driving southbound on Interstate 75 around 12:30 p.m. on January 7. The windows on her 2016 red Dodge Journey had an illegal tint. The stop happened in Sumter County, which is located west of Orlando.
It began as a routine traffic stop. But troopers said that Espinoza was acting “overtly nervous” and this raised the officers’ suspicions. They decided to call in a police dog as a precaution.
2. The Drug-Detecting Dog Sniffed Out Cocaine Hidden In the Dashboard
Troopers quickly brought a K-9 officer to the scene to investigate the Dodge Journey. The drug-detecting dog, named Flip, honed in on different areas of the vehicle. This gave troopers probable cause to do a more thorough search.
The troopers discovered cocaine “hidden within the dashboard and other voids within the rear of the vehicle,” according to the news release. There were about 12 kilos of the drug (which is more than 26 pounds). That much cocaine has a street value of about $1.2 million.
3. Elizabeth Espinoza Faces Multiple Felony Drug Charges
Elizabeth Espinoza was booked into the Sumter County Jail that afternoon. According to inmate records, the bond was set at $158,000. The listed charges include:
- Possession of Cocaine
- Possession with Intent to Sell a Schedule II Substance
- Trafficking Cocaine
- Keeping a Public Nuisance Structure for Drug Activity
4. Espinoza Was Accused of Hitting Her Child’s Father With a Car During a Fight In 2013
Elizabeth Espinoza was arrested in 2013 for a domestic violence incident involving the father of her child. Court records from Pinellas County in Florida show that she was charged with Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon after the victim accused her of trying to run him over with his own vehicle.
According to the criminal complaint, the victim had accused Espinoza of “having a sexual relationship with another man.” The victim’s name was not included in the report. But the affidavit clarifies that Espinoza and the victim “have a child in common.”
The complaint explains on August 25, 2013, Espinoza’s brother and the victim were fighting in the street and the confrontation became physical. Espinoza allegedly got into the victim’s car and “intentionally drove the vehicle into the victim, striking him in the left thigh area.”
Police say Espinoza then put the vehicle in reverse and tried to hit the victim again, but he managed to roll out of the way. Espinoza and her brother fled the scene. The victim received medical treatment at Largo Medical Center.
The next day, Espinoza admitted to investigators that she had hit the victim with the vehicle. The arrest report does not specify whether Espinoza confessed to having done it on purpose.
Court records show that Espinoza pleaded not guilty and was represented by a public defender. She was originally ordered not to have any contact with the victim.
But the records do not indicate that Espinoza was ever convicted. After posting bond, the court record indicates a change of address but does not include information about a plea deal or whether the charges were dropped. But there was court movement on the case in 2019, implying that it remained open.
5. Espinoza Has Been Cited Multiple Times For Traffic Violations
Elizabeth Espinoza has faced several charges related to traffic violations over the past several years. Records in Pinellas County show that she was cited twice in 2014 for driving with either an expired license or without proof of registration. She paid fines in both cases.
In 2017, Espinoza was cited for driving with an open container. The court record shows she again paid a fine. Pinellas County records also list a 2012 charge of misdemeanor criminal mischief, but the case was dismissed the following year.
Espinoza’s home address is in the city of Ruskin, which is south of Tampa in Hillsborough County. A search of court records in that county brings up several traffic citations against an Elizabeth Espinoza, but it’s unclear whether it’s the same person because those records do not include birth dates.