LAWRENCE — In October, Jose Martinez, 51, had $100,000 seized from him at a Los Angeles airport. When questioned, Martinez “had no logical reason for having this money,” detectives said.
In March, Martinez, of 123 Chestnut St., Andover, allegedly placed nearly $1 million cash in a tractor-trailer unit parked behind the Holiday Inn in Tewksbury. Drug detectives later found the money stashed in pallets of boxes of plastic forks, knives, spoons and napkins, according to court papers.
Then, last Friday, Martinez, who was being tailed by State Police drug detectives, was caught with 105 pounds of cocaine in the back of his Dodge Durango. Police said the drugs carry a street sales value of $4.5 million and the bust is believed to be the largest in Essex County in recent history.
Charged with trafficking cocaine and two counts of illegal firearms possession, Martinez was held on $5 million cash bail following his arraignment yesterday afternoon in Lawrence District Court.
Prosecutor Kelleen Forlizzi requested the high bail calling Martinez an “extreme flight risk.” Forlizzi pointed to his previous access to large amounts of cash, adding Martinez, who was born in the Dominican Republic, also has ties in Florida and California.
If convicted, Martinez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison, Forlizzi said.
Defense attorney Victoria Ranieri argued that Martinez has no previous record and lives in Andover with his wife of 14 years. She asked for bail at $10,000.
Martinez was arrested Friday on Interstate 495 north between Routes 133 and 93 around 1 p.m. Drug detectives were watching Martinez as part of a “large scale” investigation into “drug trafficking networks in the Merrimack Valley area,” Forlizzi said.
Detectives found a suitcase and a duffel bag containing 41 kilogram blocks of cocaine in the back of the Dodge Durango Martinez was driving. “The block shapes were vacuum sealed individually and through my training and experience were believed to be bulk amounts of cocaine. Two different blocks were field tested for cocaine and the test came back positive for cocaine,” Trooper James McTeague wrote in his report.