FRANKLIN, NJ—Two New Brunswick men and a woman from Franklin Township have been arrested and charged with cocaine possession after a wild series of events that included a narcotics-detecting dog sniffing packages, police surveillance of a home, and a high-speed chase that ended in a crash.
Authorities say the operation, which resulted in the siezure of five kilograms of cocaine, all started with a tip passed along to Somerset County authorities by the New Brunswick Police Department.
According to a Somerset County Prosecutor's Office (SCPO) press release, the tipster told authorities that, "on October 8… a parcel containing [a controlled dangerous substance] would be delivered to a North Dover Avenue residence in Franklin Township."
That meant that the federal government, spefically the office U.S. Postal Postal Inspection Service, would likely need to be involved.
With a surveillance team in place, the action began when a postal officer delivered the two allegedly drug-filled packages to the home of 25-year-old Jessica Rodriguez.
"Task Force Detectives, along with U.S. Postal Inspection Officers intercepted two packages at the Franklin Township Post Office," read the SCPO press release.
Authorities had already asked for the opinion of a trained narcotics-sniffing dog named "Apex," and gotten a positive result.
When the packages were delivered, 33-year-old Joel Osman Matos-Santiago hopped in a vehicle, and circled the block before picking up the packages and putting them in the back seat.
Another defendant, 27-year-old Victor M. Santana-Ricardo allegedly told the postal officer to leave the packages on the front steps of the home, saying that he was Rodriguez's husband.
"Defendant Matos-Santiago immediately left the area in a black Acura TSX… and returned in the Acura after circling the block in the vehicle," reads the SCPO press release.
"After retrieving the packages and placing them in the rear seat area of the vehicle defendant Matos-Santiago left the area via Dover Avenue towards Hamilton Street at a high rate of speed."
"Task Force Detectives attempted to conduct a motor vehicle stop at which time Matos-Santiago attempted to elude them while making evasive maneuvers with his vehicle," the release continues. "After he struck a police vehicle on Park Street detectives placed him under arrest."
Detectives obtained a "Superior Court Search Warrant" for the vehicle and seized the two packages, which they say contained 5 kilograms of cocaine.
All three were charged with first-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, second-degree conspiracy to Commit a CDS Offense.
Matos-Santiago was also charged with second-degree eluding.
All three defendants were lodged in the Somerset County Jail on cash only bails. Matos-Santiago and Santana-Ricardo are being held on $250,000 bail, and Rodriguez is being held onf $100,000.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.