West Texas 'Checkpoint to the stars' nabs celebrities with drugs

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 5:45 AM

HUDSPETH COUNTY, Texas -- Rapper Nelly is the latest celebrity to run into problems at a busy Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 in far West Texas.

Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Haynes, and his entourage were stopped after a drug-sniffing dog alerted agents there were drugs on board the rapper’s tour bus. The Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office was called to the scene to make an arrest.

“'I’m thinking of maybe seizing this bus because you had 10 pounds of marijuana on it and heroin,'” Capt. Robert D. Wilson said he told Nelly. “And he was really upset about it.”

Wilson said he decided not to confiscate the bus, because the drugs were found in a locked suitcase belonging to Nelly’s security manager.

The sheriff’s office arrested Brian Keith Jones after he said the drugs and the suitcase were his alone.

Agents found 10 pounds of marijuana and 36 small plastic bags with a total of 0.64 ounces of heroin. They also seized a loaded .45-caliber pistol.

Jones was booked into the Hudspeth County Jail in Sierra Blanca. It's the same small town jail where Wilie Nelson, singer Fiona Apple and actor Armie Hammer have spent time behind bars.

Drug-sniffing dogs found Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Armie Hammer traveling with marijuana. Fiona Apple also had hashish.

“I love all of them," said Katia Mora as she was driving up to the checkpoint on her way home to Austin. "I went to Houston to see Snoop and Willie Nelson - they’re awesome - and Fiona Apple, big fan."

“I got to visit with Willie,” Capt. Wilson said..

But he admitted was not familiar with the other celebrities who spent time in the jail including, “Arm & Hammer, or something like that. I never heard of him in my life,” Wilson said.

Armie Hammer played the Winklevoss twins in the 2010 movie "The Social Network," and the actor will star in a new Lone Ranger movie next year. He ran into the real law in West Texas when he tried to drive through the checkpoint with some marijuana cookies and a brownie.

“We can seize thousands of pounds of narcotics and we don’t hear from anybody," said Rusty Fleming, the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “But we pop one little pop star or entertainer, and I’ll get anywhere from 50 to 200 e-mails from the international media from all over the world.”

While Sierra Blanca has become notorious on celebrity gossip websites like TMZ, local residents are not impressed.

“I don’t even have a Facebook account," said Richard Stewart a local alfalfa and cotton farmer. He and others wonder why so many celebrities are getting caught at the checkpoint these days.

“I’d have to be inclined to believe it is a publicity stunt,” Stewart said.

But one thing is clear at the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office: Capt. Wilson said there is no special treatment for celebrity inmates.

“They’re just folks," he said. "They put their britches on the same way we do."

Even so, this stop is now known as the "checkpoint to the stars."

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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