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8,000 heroin stamp bags seized during Hempfield Turnpike traffic stop

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, 10:28 a.m.
State police seized 150 bricks of heroin during a traffic stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.
State police seized 150 bricks of heroin during a traffic stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.
Joe M. Cabrera-Castro
Joe M. Cabrera-Castro

State police seized about 8,000 stamp bags of heroin worth about $75,000 during a traffic stop Monday afternoon along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, according to court papers.

A trooper pulled over a westbound Honda Accord driven by Joe M. Cabrera-Castro, 34, of New York at 2 p.m. after an alleged turn signal violation in Hempfield near the New Stanton interchange, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Cabrera-Castro permitted the trooper to search the car, where the drugs were packed into 150 bricks for “wholesale distribution,” Trooper Ryan Marmol wrote in the complaint.

The street value of one brick of heroin — containing 50 bags — is about $500.

Marmol was working in a drug enforcement section that focuses on identifying potentially criminal activity during routine traffic stops. SHIELD, or Safe Highways Initiative for Effective Law Enforcement and Detection, is specialized training for troopers.

Marmol reported in an affidavit that he asked to search the car after noticing “indicators consistent with criminal activity.”

Cabrera-Castro is a native of the Dominican Republic, according to court papers. His immigration status was unclear. A police spokesman was unavailable Tuesday.

The suspect is the third native of the island nation to be arrested recently on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Westmoreland County allegedly with 150 bricks of heroin. In June, two Philadelphia residents, whom police described as illegal immigrants, were pulled over for a traffic violation about 2 p.m. as they exited the New Stanton interchange. Jose Miguel Garbitto Montilla, 30, and Frankely Alonzo Ramos Castanos, 28, are being held in the Westmoreland County Prison awaiting trial on drug charges.

Cabrera-Castro was arraigned Monday night on drug charges and lodged in the Westmoreland County Prison on $100,000 bail.

A Sept. 20 preliminary hearing is set.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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