, Salem, MA

Local News

October 20, 2012

6 nabbed in drug sting

SALEM — The owner of the Bangkok Paradise restaurant had been busy earlier this week answering for late-night troubles at his downtown hot spot, but yesterday Jesus Franco found himself in handcuffs at Salem District Court for allegedly trafficking the opiate painkiller oxycodone.

Franco was among six North Shore men arrested yesterday morning in a multi-agency drug investigation. The investigation netted thousands of pills and $50,000 in cash, the Essex County District Attorney’s office said.

Judge Michael Laurenzano ordered Franco, 42, of 34 Perkins St., Salem, held on $50,000 cash bail on two counts of trafficking with his next court date set for Nov. 14, his attorney said. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Collins had asked for Franco to be held on $100,000 bail, outlining two separate daytime oxycodone sales to a confidential informant in August at the Washington Street eatery.

“As you know, with high level drug sales comes a lot of money and a lot of drug dealers have a lot of cash,” Collins said.

Salem Defense Attorney Mark Barry countered there did not appear to be any overlapping charges with Franco and the five others arrested, though Collins said the investigation was ongoing.

Barry said Franco has lived in Salem since 1989, has deep ties to the community, has a wife and a 4-year-old. He also hinted that Franco’s recent trouble with the city might have contributed to his arrest.

“He has been having a rough time with a restaurant and there may be a reason why they put this together today,” said Barry, who asked bail be lowered to $2,500 to $5,000.

Earlier this week, the city’s Licensing Board ordered a six-month rollback of the restaurant’s entertainment license from 12:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. due to late-night rowdy crowds that police have had trouble clearing. The restaurant was also given a warning on an allegation of serving a minor, and faces a further hearing in a few weeks on a new allegation of serving an underage patron. The restaurant has taken steps to curb the problems.

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