Traffic stop leads to drug bust

Search of car on I-95 in Cecil Co. yields 79 bricks of suspected cocaine, among largest seizures


A routine traffic stop by Maryland State Police along Interstate 95 in Cecil County led to one of the largest single cocaine seizures along a state roadway, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Police said the midmorning bust Monday yielded 79 bricks of suspected cocaine, each weighing about 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, packed in suitcases and a cooler inside a 2000 Buick LeSabre. The driver, identified as Ramon Pena, 26, of Durham, N.C., was arrested by state troopers and charged by federal authorities with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

"It was one of the largest or maybe even the largest from one car," said Ed Marcinko, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Baltimore office.

Authorities said Pena was alone and on his way to Delaware but they are not sure where the suspected drugs came from or where they were going, Marcinko said.

"It's unusual because the drugs normally flow south on 95, and the money flows north," the spokesman said.

Law enforcement officials have long said I-95 has been a prime drug corridor for the Northeast part of the country.

Pena was held in custody last night and is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Baltimore today. Because of the amount of cocaine involved in the case, Pena could face life in prison if convicted.

Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, declined to answer questions about the case and referred all inquiries to the U.S. attorney's office, whose prosecutors are handling the case.

According to court documents, a state trooper said he stopped Pena just after 10:30 a.m. for following another car too closely on northbound I-95 in Cecil County.

The trooper was unable to see how many people were inside the LeSabre because it had tinted windows, court papers said.

When approached by the troopers, the driver gave him a North Carolina identification card identifying him as Pena, according to an affidavit filed by a state trooper working for the DEA.

A registration card listed a woman from Durham as the owner of the LeSabre, court paper said. Pena told the trooper he did not know the car's owner, according to state police documents.

Court papers describe how the trooper apparently noticed something else: the driver's hands shaking uncontrollably.

A drug-sniffing police dog confirmed the presence of drugs, police wrote in court documents. Within about 10 minutes, the trooper had searched the car and found bricks of suspected drugs in a cooler, court papers show. More bricks were found in two suitcases in the trunk and the suitcase in the back seat, according to state police documents. Two of the bricks tested positive for cocaine, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

Authorities also said they recovered $21,980 from inside the LeSabre.

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