By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Police say a Lawrence woman who came to Haverhill to sell drugs made her first stop at a Franklin Street home where a drug overdose happened recently and neighbors have been complaining about drug transactions. On her second stop, an apartment complex outside of Lafayette Square, police arrested a couple who said they’d just purchased heroin from her, then they arrested the woman and her passenger, who happened to be her younger sister.
A prosecutor said police in Haverhill have been monitoring 31-year-old Ana Caraballo for over a year and in the past stopped her twice on suspicion of selling drugs but were unable to find any when frisking her. This time a female officer was involved and conducted a body search that turned up drugs hidden in a spot where male officers would not look, the prosecutor said.
Police charged Caraballo, 31, 8 Diamond St., #19, Lawrence, with distribution of a Class A substance, possession to distribute a Class A substance, possession to distribute a Class B substance, and conspiracy to violate the drug laws. She was arrested Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. on Woodcock Avenue after police observed what appeared to be a drug transaction. Police also charged her with failure to stop and negligent operation of a motor vehicle after she allegedly tried to get away from them and bumped her car into the side of an unmarked police car.
Police said her sister, Estefany Caraballo, 24, 478 Riverside Drive, #301, Lawrence, was her passenger at the time. Police charged Estefany Caraballo with distribution of a Class A substance, possession to distribute a Class A substance and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
The two sisters were originally arraigned in Haverhill District Court on Thursday but their cases were held over to yesterday so that a Spanish language interpreter could be provided.
According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, members of the Haverhill police narcotics unit with the assistance of an ATF special agent set up surveillance near the area of 70 Franklin St. Police said there was a recent drug overdose at that address and it was under surveillance for several months after reports from neighbors about drug transactions occurring there regularly. Police said a white Honda Accord pulled up and parked across the street from the house. They said a woman got into the car, then got out and the car drove off. Police followed it to the Pine Brook Place apartments on Woodcock Avenue, where they saw a man get out of his vehicle and enter the Honda before returning to his vehicle. The Honda drove off but was stopped before it left the parking lot.
Police arrested Nicole Lafontaine, 32, 18 South Shore Drive, Pelham, and Justin Noyes, 35, 21 Atwood Road, #3, Haverhill. According to the police report, Lafontaine’s pocketbook contained hypodermic needles and spoons, which police said are typically used for shooting up heroin. Police found approximately 3.2 grams of heroin in their vehicle. Both were charged with possession of a Class A substance.
Officers in an unmarked cruiser stopped the Honda, which was driven by Ana Caraballo, after her car bumped into the side of the cruiser. Police arrested both Ana and Estefany Caraballo.
According to the police report, a female police patrol officer conducted body searches of the two women in the back seat of a police cruiser. The report said the officer found a plastic bag in the “vaginal area” of Ana Caraballo and that it contained two bags containing approximately 0.6 grams of a white substance believed to be cocaine and six bags containing approximately 2.3 grams of a brown substance believed to be heroin. A total of $382 was seized from her purse, and a total of $68 was seized from Estefany Caraballo.
Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo faced a challenging situation as the courtroom was filled with more than 60 students and teachers from Consentino and Hunking middle schools. The students were there to take part in a mock trial, part of the annual Law Day celebrations sponsored by the Haverhill Bar Association. DePaulo told The Eagle-Tribune that he’d taken part in arraignments during past Law Day events, but nothing like the case against the two Caraballo sisters.
DePaulo paused momentarily while reading a section of the police report regarding the body search of Ana Caraballo.
He said the officer located a plastic bag containing drugs, “under her underwear.”
DePaulo asked Judge Patricia Dowling to hold Ana Caraballo on $50,000 cash bail and said the state would be seeking “long jail time.”
DePaulo said that because police were not sure about her sister’s involvement, he asked for a lesser bail amount of $15,000 for Estefany Caraballo.
Defense lawyer Pamela Rogers, who represented Estefany Caraballo, asked that she be released on personal recognizance saying she has a three-year-old daughter, works at a bakery in Lawrence and does not pose a risk of fleeing. Rogers said there was nothing in the police report to indicate she had anything to do with the alleged activity. She said police did not find any drugs on Estefany Caraballo and that she has no criminal record.
“I think she’s an innocent bystander,” Rogers said.
Defense lawyer William Sullivan, who represented Ana Caraballo, said she has four children and receives child support from their father. Sullivan said she does not receive assistance from the state, has strong roots in the community and is training to be a nursing assistant. Sullivan said she has no court record of convictions and not a single arrest for any drug violation.
He asked that she be released on personal recognizance as well.
Sullivan contested the police assertion that she was trying to flee when her car collided with an unmarked police car.
“She was coming out of a parking lot and an unmarked police car shot in front of her,” he said.
DePaulo said neither woman was a U.S. citizen. Rogers and Sullivan said their clients are both legal residents of the United States.
DePaulo said that in addition to the police report he read aloud in court, drug detectives informed the commonwealth that Ana Caraballo has been “on the radar” of Haverhill police for over 18 months. He said that on two occasions, police stopped her and conducted pat frisks but did not find any drugs.
“There was no female officer available so the police were limited in the extent of the pat frisk,” DePaulo said. “The way she has transported the drugs has worked to her benefit. And that it was only discovered because a female officer was on duty.”
Dowling ordered Estefany Caraballo held on $7,500 cash bail and Ana Caraballo held on $35,000 cash bail. She also issued both a 60-day warning, meaning if they violate any laws while their cases are pending they could be ordered held for up to 60 days without bail. Both must return to court June 3 for pretrial hearings.