---- — The arrest of an Andover man who, according to police, had $4.5 million worth of cocaine in his SUV, prompts troubling thoughts about the nature of the drug trade in our area.
Everyone knows, if they bother to think about it at all, that local small-time street dealers get their illicit wares from some larger-scale operators. But many people, we think, imagined that these drug “wholesalers” if you will were somewhere far away — perhaps in the big cities of Boston or New York.
The arrest last week of Jose Martinez of 123 Chestnut St., Andover, shatters that comforting illusion. Police say Martinez was handling hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions worth of cocaine. Last Friday, Martinez was pulled over on Interstate 495 North between Route 133 and I-93 after detectives say they witnessed a transaction in the parking lot of a Tewksbury Holiday Inn. In his Dodge Durango, state police say they found vacuum-packed blocks of cocaine totaling 105 pounds with a street value of $4.5 million.
According to information presented at his arraignment Monday, after his arrest detectives searched Martinez’s Andover home and seized $10,000 cash, two loaded firearms, an industrial-grade money counter, a digital scale, vacuum sealer and other items. Neither Martinez nor his wife have a license to carry a firearm.
Martinez was charged with trafficking cocaine and two counts of illegal firearms possession. He was ordered held on $5 million cash bail.
Detectives have been watching Martinez for some time as part of a “large scale” investigation into “drug trafficking networks in the Merrimack Valley area,” prosecutor Kelleen Forlizzi said at the arraignment.
Detectives from the Essex County Drug Task Force were watching hotels in the area, as they are commonly used for drug meetings and buys. Martinez was identified by detectives “as an individual making frequent hotel visits with extremely short stays,” Trooper James McTeague wrote in his report.
A background investigation showed Martinez had $100,000 seized from him by federal agents in Los Angeles last fall, according to McTeague’s report. When questioned, Martinez “had no logical reason for having this money,” detectives said.
On March 9, detectives watched Martinez as he drove from his home to the Holiday Inn on Route 133 in Tewksbury. There, they say they saw Martinez stash what turned out to be 19 bags containing $949,210 cash in the back of a tractor-trailer parked there.
On Friday, detectives again followed Martinez to the Holiday Inn parking lot. He parked the Durango next to a silver Nissan Maxima with California plates. After some small talk, the trunk of the Maxima opened.
“Moments later, surveillance observed Martinez remove what appeared to be a large suitcase and a duffel bag and transfer them to the rear compartment of the Durango,” McTeague wrote.
Troopers later pulled Martinez over on I-495 and found the cocaine.
The evidence of drug trafficking on this scale in the immediate area is frightening. Drugs and ill-gotten money in these quantities lead inevitably to violence and death. Credit goes to the state police and the Essex County district attorney’s Drug Task Force for the arrest.
We encourage them to continue their investigation and hope they will be able to get these dangerous traffickers off our streets.