An aerial drug sweep of the Island this month by the Massachusetts State Police and federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) task force found 169 illegal marijuana plants. Authorities are still investigating who planted the crops and have yet to make any arrests or issue summonses.
“There will be charges, maybe this week,” said state police Sergeant Jeff Stone, also head of the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force. “But as of right now the investigation is ongoing.”
Sgt. Stone said the marijuana plants were seized on August 6 during a joint operation between the state police and DEA.
The helicopter was provided by the Massachusetts National Guard, which also used the search as a training operation for cadets. The helicopter flew over several locations in West Tisbury, Chilmark and Tisbury; the details were passed on to police on the ground who raided the properties and seized the plants.
Similar searches took place in recent years. Last year authorities seized nearly 300 plants during their surveillance operation.
Sgt. Stone said the helicopter was planning to go up two weeks ago, but the flight was cancelled due to inclement weather. He speculated more plants might have been seized had the flight taken place earlier.
Drug Arrest at Ferry
Meanwhile, the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force last Tuesday arrested Victor Cruz, 28, on felony drug trafficking charges, after officers caught him returning to the Island at the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven carrying illegal prescription drugs.
Mr. Cruz has lived at various Island addresses for the past 18 months, and most recently lived on 20th street in Edgartown. He is originally from New Bedford.
Sgt. Stone said police apprehended Mr. Cruz as he returned on the 7 p.m. boat and while searching his person found 182 Percocet and 47 Oxycodone pills. He was charged with trafficking in a Class A controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance. He was arraigned in Edgartown district court on Wednesday and was ordered to be held without bail.
At the time of last week’s arrest, Mr. Cruz was free on bail on a separate criminal case out of New Bedford. The arrest here constituted an automatic bail violation, and he will now be held without bail for 60 days.
Sgt. Stone said the task force had been investigating Mr. Cruz for several months and received information he was returning to the Island on Tuesday with illegal drugs. The estimated street value of the drugs was around $9,200, Sgt. Stone said.
Oak Bluffs Bust
The Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force arrested an Island man on felony drug trafficking charges in downtown Oak Bluffs on Saturday and in the process seized 221 grams of cocaine and 69 tabs of ecstasy with an estimated street value of $25,000.
Nelio Maciel, 35, of Oak Bluffs, was charged with trafficking cocaine and trafficking MDMA (ecstasy). A native of Brazil, Mr. Maciel has lived on the Island for the past six years. He was arraigned in Edgartown district court yesterday morning, where a plea of not guilty was automatically entered.
Assistant district attorney Eileen E. Connors explained to the Hon. Lance Garth that Oak Bluffs officers assigned to the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force observed two men conduct a hand-to-hand drug transaction in a vehicle in the parking lot off Kennebec avenue near the public rest rooms around 1 a.m. on Saturday.
Police then searched the vehicle and found 22 individually wrapped plastic bags containing cocaine, four ecstasy pills and packaging supplies used for larger-scale narcotics distribution. During a later search of Mr. Maciel’s home off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, police found a larger amount of cocaine, more ecstasy pills and around $4,357 in cash.
Ms. Connors yesterday told Judge Garth that Mr. Maciel may be in the country illegally, and therefore may be more of a flight risk.
Defense attorney Charles Morano argued that Mr. Cruz has no previous record of serious criminal activity and has worked steadily the past six years on the Island as a carpenter. He argued for bail to be set at $10,000.
In the end Judge Garth agreed to set bail at $25,000. Mr. Cruz was still being held at the Dukes County House of Corrections as of yesterday afternoon, and he is due back in court on August 27.
In other police news, Saurabh Chhibber, 29, of Oak Bluffs was arrested on Thursday on charges of rape and indecent assault and battery following a brief investigation by Oak Bluffs police.
Oak Bluffs police lieutenant Timothy Williamson said Mr. Chhibber was arrested following an investigation into an alleged rape that took place on Central avenue in Oak Bluffs on the night of August 3. He could not go into further detail because the investigation is ongoing.