Two men remain in prison on half a million dollars cash bail following a traffic stop on the turnpike in Charlestown Township.
Ezequiel Santiago Jr., 36, of Reading, and Felix Vazquez, 40, of West Reading, were arrested after state troopers allegedly found more than three pounds of cocaine in a secret compartment in the SUV Vazquez was driving. Both men face felony charges of possession with intent to deliver and conspiracy possession with intent to deliver along with misdemeanor charges of drug possession and paraphernalia possession.
On Monday, March 19, at approximately 11:42 a.m., Trooper Justin Hope was on routine patrol in Charlestown Township when a blue Lincoln Navigator was spotted in the left lane of the Pennsylvania Turnpike traveling at 75 miles per hour in a posted 65 mile per hour zone, according to a criminal complaint filed in district court. The trooper also noticed illegal window tint on the windows of the Lincoln.
Hope stopped the SUV and Vazquez handed over his driver’s license. Vazquez told the trooper that the men were heading back to Reading from the Franklin Mills Mall, where they had purchased sneakers for Santiago’s child. Santiago said he did not have any identification with him, according to the criminal complaint.
When the trooper went back to his patrol vehicle, he did a criminal history search that turned up prior possession with intent to deliver charges for both men. Santiago is on parole until 2013. Vazquez also had a firearms charge dating back to 1995.
Hope wrote that Vazquez received a written warning for speeding and for the window tint.
“He was given all of his information back and advised he was free to leave,” the criminal complaint states.
When Vazquez was getting back into the vehicle, the trooper said “Felix” and Vazquez walked back to him, according to the court documents. He was again advised that he was free to go.
“He agreed to answer more questions,” Hope wrote in the criminal complaint. “I asked him if there was anything illegal in the car like weapons, drugs or cash from illegal proceeds. He told me no. I then asked if I could search the vehicle. He told me yes. He then provided written consent to search the vehicle.”
A K-9 unit was called and the dog Eva picked up a scent around the second row center console of the Lincoln, according to the criminal complaint. Two troopers searched that area and hidden beneath the carpet in front of the third-row seats, they spotted several clear plastic bags containing a white substance beneath the factory holes in the vehicle. Hope noted that there were air fresheners around the plastic bags in the compartment.
“We stopped searching as we couldn’t access the compartment without possibly damaging the vehicle,” Hope wrote in the criminal complaint.
Upon further searching at the barracks, troopers discovered that the suspected cocaine was being kept in a hidden compartment under the second-row console, and the compartment was electronically activated.
Field tests showed the presence of cocaine, and preliminary weight results came in at approximately 1,383 grams, or more than three pounds. Both men were arraigned Monday night and bail was set at $500,000 cash. A preliminary hearing is set for April 5 in district court in Phoenixville.