BEVERLY — A Lowell man arrested Friday with nearly a half-pound of heroin was also carrying an EBT card belonging to a known drug user — a card that may have been collateral for a drug debt, police and prosecutors believe.
Campeo A. Diaz-Carela, 43, is facing a minimum mandatory 15 years in prison if found guilty of trafficking heroin over 200 grams, the charge he was arraigned on yesterday in Salem District Court.
Diaz-Carela was also arraigned on charges of giving police a false name, after initially producing identification that showed him as Abisay Montanez, 36. Among the documents Diaz-Carela was carrying were a MassHealth card, a Pennsylvania identification card and a learner's permit, all bearing the name Montanez.
But police also found an electronic benefits transfer card that belongs to a Beverly resident known to police as a regular heroin user, prosecutor Patrick Collins told a Salem District Court judge.
Collins said EBT cards, which have come under scrutiny recently over their misuse, are now being handed over to dealers by addicts.
It wasn't until Diaz-Carela's fingerprints were submitted to an FBI database that he was identified — and discovered to be wanted by immigration officials, as well, having entered the country illegally through Arizona in 2010, Collins said.
Beverly Patrolman Thomas Nolan was working near the North Beverly Plaza when he noticed a Chrysler Pacifica passing slowly and looking at him.
Nolan took down the plate number and learned it was registered to a woman in Lynn whom he knew from prior investigations to be a "straw" buyer for a drug dealer, Collins told Judge Robert Brennan.
Nolan followed the Pacifica to Beverly Commons Drive, not far from the shopping plaza, near Tozer Road, and saw two men get out, one with his hand on a pocket knife attached to his belt.
As both men approached, Nolan pulled out a can of pepper spray. At first, the man with the pocket knife appeared to be cooperative but then ran off, throwing items from his pockets as he ran, according to the police report.
Nolan caught up with the man, as backup arrived.
Police found a package wrapped in foil, about 7 inches by 5 inches, that was filled with chunks of brown matter believed to be 220 grams (7.8 ounces) of heroin, worth about $30,000.
Because of the combination of a likely mandatory minimum sentence and Diaz-Carela's immigration status, Brennan granted Collins' request for $500,000 cash bail.
A status hearing is scheduled for May 15.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or email@example.com.