KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A man whom police say routinely comes to Bennington in a cab from the Albany, N.Y., area was arrested and charged with drug trafficking after police found 401 small bags of heroin with a street value of about $8,000.
Shamel L. Alexander, 25, who was listed as homeless by the court, pleaded not guilty Friday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to one felony count of heroin trafficking. He was held for lack of $100,000 bail.
In an affidavit, Bennington Police Cpl. Andy Hunt wrote that earlier this year police had learned that people from the Albany area were transporting drugs to Bennington by using taxis that would drop them off in the parking lot of the Lucky Dragon restaurant.
Hunt said he was behind a New York taxi cab headed south on North Street and watched it nearly run a red light to turn left onto Main Street. There was a global positioning system stuck to the taxi’s windshield, which violated Vermont’s traffic laws, so Hunt conducted a traffic stop across from the restaurant.
According to Hunt, Alexander was in the back seat of the cab. He has no criminal record, and said he was from Brooklyn, N.Y., and had come to Bennington to visit family.
Hunt spoke to the taxi driver, who said he knew that Alexander had been taken to Bennington multiple times before by other taxi drivers. He said he picked Alexander up at a bus station in Albany, and found it odd that Alexander did not know the exact location of the restaurant.
Alexander had a bag with him, and initially objected to police searching it, but consented before police dogs trained to find drugs arrived. Hunt said he found a smaller bag in Alexander’s luggage with what felt like a small brick inside. It turned out to contain about 400 small bags of heroin weighing 11.7 grams.
Alexander told police he did not know what was in the bag because he did not pack it.
Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett told Judge Cortland Corsones that he had learned from police that the estimated "street value" of the seized heroin was between $8,000 and $9,000.
Should there be a conviction, heroin trafficking carries a penalty of not more than 30 years and not more than a $1 million fine.