Kevin Foti
Kevin Foti (Courtesy of San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

FARMINGTON — A man who told police that he was a bootlegger was arrested last week after he allegedly led state police on a high-speed chase from Hogback to Shiprock.

Kevin Foti, 53, of Farmington, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated fleeing, which is a fourth-degree felony, as well as driving without a license, speeding and having expired registration.

At 7 a.m. Friday, New Mexico State Police officers were running a sting operation at a Giant gas station on U.S. Highway 64, said state police Sgt. James Rempe. Rempe, who was working the sting, said the officers were looking for suspected drunk drivers and intoxicated people buying alcohol.

The Hogback gas station in Waterflow "has a tendency to have a lot of overserved individuals return to get more alcohol," Rempe said.

At 7:34 a.m., Foti pulled into the gas station and parked.

Rempe said he caught officers' attention because he sat in a parked car for 10 minutes and then got out, grabbed a backpack and stood in the parking lot, looking around for several minutes.

"We radioed that something was going to happen at the gas station because he was acting that suspicious," Rempe said.

Rempe said Foti got back in his 2001 Saab passenger car and turned east onto U.S. 64 toward Farmington.

Officer Joel Holloway attempted to stop Foti, but the man made an aggressive U-turn and started to drive toward Shiprock at nearly 95 miles per hour, Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said in a news release.

Foti later told officers he made aggressive driving moves during the chase in hopes that officers would stop chasing him because they feared for their own safety, according to court documents.

State police officers used tire-deflation devices to stop Foti in Shiprock, Rempe said.

Rempe said Foti had two bottles of liquor with him. He told police he fled because he was in possession of two bottles of liquor, and he thought the Hogback gas station was on the Navajo Nation, where the sale of alcohol is illegal. Foti allegedly told police he didn't want to go to jail for "bootlegging," according to the news release.

Remple said that in San Juan County, "bootlegging" refers to buying alcohol off the Navajo Nation, driving it onto the reservation and illegally selling it at a marked-up price.

After state police arrested Foti, he was taken from Shiprock to the San Juan County Adult Detention Center because he was non-Navajo, giving state police jurisdiction, Rempe said.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.