One suspect, from the Dominican Republic, said he has been in America for just longer than a month.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- A county court judge set $100,000 bonds on three out-of-state people accused of bringing $100,000 worth of cocaine into the Mahoning Valley from New York.
Jorge G. Nunez, 37, of Bronx, N.Y., faces a charge of trafficking in cocaine, a first-degree felony, after his arraignment Monday before Judge Loren A. Popio.
Facing the same charge are Samuel Gonzales and Wanda I. Velazquez, both 30, of Springfield, Mass.
The three were arrested early Sunday by Austintown police and the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force after officers found 1 kilogram -- about 2.2 pounds -- of cocaine inside a car they had driven from New York into the area. Investigators said the cocaine would likely have been separated into 1,000 1-gram parcels that sell for about $100 each.
Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Cardinal argued for the $100,000 bonds, saying the three are from out of town and have no family ties or employment to keep them from fleeing the area.
New to country: Nunez was arraigned through the use of a court-appointed interpreter. He told the judge that he was from the Dominican Republic where he worked as a pharmacist but that he has been unemployed since he came to America one month and 10 days ago.
Gonzales and Velazquez were arraigned together. Gonzales, who speaks English, translated for Velazquez. Police reports show the two are married.
Judge Popio said attorneys would be appointed to handle each of the cases.
Culmination of probe: The three were arrested at about 12:40 a.m. Sunday after a weeks-long investigation, officials said. Sgt. Jeff Solic, Deputy Jeff Allen and officer Robert Patton, all of the drug task force, made the arrests.
Police reports show that the group drove a gold Nissan Maxima into Youngstown where they met with a South Side man. There, Nunez joined the Youngstown man in his blue Oldsmobile and the two cars were driven into Austintown.
Police stopped them on Mahoning Avenue near Wickliffe Circle where the bundle of cocaine was found in a compartment beneath a passenger seat in the Nissan.
Velazquez's two children, ages 9 and 10, were riding in the car. They have been placed in the custody of the county children services board.