By STEVE SNYDER, Staff Writer
The Lebanon Daily News
Copyright 2006 Lebanon Daily News
All Rights Reserved
[Related P-1 articles: Turning a "routine" ticket into a big-time bust and Deputies turn a 'simple' speeding stop into a triple murder bust]
A routine traffic stop Monday morning led police to a supply of heroin and crack cocaine with a street value of $34,000, one of the largest single drug busts in city history.
"Officer (Lawrence) Minnich needs to be commended for continuing the investigation," city police Capt. Dan Wright said at a news conference yesterday afternoon. "This is the most I've seen (seized) from one person in my 22 years here."
"This was outstanding police work by Larry Minnich," District Attorney David Arnold said. "This was an excellent investigation."
Wright explained that Minnich took the initiative to request a search warrant after he discovered a small amount of marijuana and an unusually large amount of money during the 11:11 a.m. traffic stop, which was made for vehicle-code violations. The first warrant led to a request for a second search warrant.
Monday's bust came on the heels of several possible drug-related deaths. Authorities are investigating the deaths of three city residents between the ages of 20 and 44 on Thursday and Friday at their homes.
Following yesterday's news conference, county Coroner Dr. Jeff Yocum said all three deaths were "suspicious" but that results of toxicology tests could take several weeks.
Hector Torres, 24, and Luis Collazo, 21, both of 1001 Willow St., were charged as a result of Monday's traffic stop and subsequent searches.
Torres was charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin, possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine, false identification to law enforcement and possession of drug paraphernalia, police said. Philadelphia police have a warrant on Torres for narcotics violations, Wright said. Torres has lived in Lebanon about three months.
Collazo, the driver, was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia as a result of the traffic stop, police said.
Arnold said Torres was renting a second apartment at 1018 Cumberland St.
"Some dealers have a place to live and a place to package," Wright said.
"We're seeing the same issues as other cities," Mayor Bob Anspach said.
Anspach commended police and community groups for helping to reduce the city's crime rate.
"This was a large step toward improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods," Anspach said of the arrests. "I can't say enough about the patrol division and Officer Minnich. They are very active and doing a good job."
Police Chief William Harvey said heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine are this area's "drugs du jour."
"We don't have clubs here, so we don't have club drugs, like Ecstasy," Harvey said. Methamphetamine is also rare here, Harvey said.
The first warrant was executed in an apartment at 1001 Willow St., during which officers seized a small amount of marijuana, 137 bags of heroin and drug paraphernalia. A total of $4,587 in currency was seized.
The second warrant was executed in an apartment at 1018 Cumberland St., where officers found about 1,000 bags of heroin, 173 grams of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia, including scales and packaging materials.
Police said the heroin, packaged for street delivery, has an estimated value of $20,000. The crack cocaine, packaged in bulk, has an estimated value of $14,000.
Torres and Collazo were arraigned before District Judge John Arnold and placed in Lebanon County prison, police said. Bail for Torres was set at $100,000; Collazo's bail was set at $5,000.
Traffic stop yields huge bust for Pa. officer