The arrest early this month 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 April 5 arrest 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. Martinez was pulled over on Interstate 495 north between Routes 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, detectives after his arrest 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.