say that a warehouse on Brown Street was a cornerstone in an international drug trafficking operation moving marijuana from Mexico to New York City.
Following a joint investigation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and cooperation from the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield police seized about $6 million worth of marijuana and arrested three men suspected to be involved in an international drug running ring.
It is the largest drug seizure in the history of the Springfield Police Department.
According to a Springfield police statement, the DEA’s Newark office told Springfield Police of possible narcotics activity involving Mexican drug dealers in Springfield. On Saturday, Feb. 4 at 8:30 a.m., DEA agents and Springfield officers conducted a surveillance of a warehouse on Brown Avenue in Springfield.
Springfield PD Officer Michael Lagola and Officer Martin Costello reportedly stopped two motor vehicles after it was observed that a large amount of what officers suspected was Marijuana was loaded into the vehicles from the warehouse. The officers contacted the Union County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit. Police say Officer Ryan Wilson and his drug-sniffing dog Lorcan verified the 84 bundles marijuana. Police determined the bundled marijuana weighed 473 pounds.
Police arrested two 19-year-old men, Jaime Miranda of Riverside, CA and Adrian Ponce of Anaheim, CA.
During the motor vehicle stop, Springfield PD Officers Frank Cunha and Michael Wlazlo were investigating the warehouse along with DEA agents. They arrested a Mexican national, Eduardo Lara, 32 of Guadalajara Mexico and reportedly found 186 more bundles of raw, wrapped marijuana, wrapping materials and digital scales amongst crates of peppers and limes.
Springfield police said the total drug seizure was 2,083 pounds or in excess of one ton of marijuana with a "street value" of approximately $6 million.
All three subjects were charged with first degree Possession with Intent to Distribute over 25 pounds of Marijuana, Possession of Marijuana, Conspiracy to Traffick in Marijuana and the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. They are being held at the Union County Jail in Elizabeth in lieu of $250,000 bond and will appear in Union County Superior Court set for on Friday, Feb. 10.
The U.S. Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) was contacted and a deportation detainer issued against the Mexican national. Background investigations continue on the two subjects from California. Springfield detectives believe the drugs were likely en route to New York City. NYPD was also contacted.
"Interstate, if not international, drug trafficking is not something that only occurs in large cities,” Springfield Police Chief John Cook said. “In fact many organized drug gangs will seek out rented warehouse space in suburban communities where they believe they can safely receive and package illegal drugs before transporting them to urban markets.”
Cook commended Springfield officers and detectives and DEA agents for the arrests and demonstrating how agencies can work together to show that suburban communities are not a safe harbor.