BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — When police armed with a search warrant finally managed to force their way into the apartment at 21 Salem St., Salem, on Friday morning, they were seconds late.
They found the target of their investigation, Jonathan E. Soto-Tejada, 31, wet and standing over a toilet, and they found two empty bags, one they believe once contained a baseball-sized quantity of heroin and the other they believe contained a roughly equal amount of the drug packaged into small “twists” for sale, a Salem police lieutenant told a judge yesterday.
Soto-Tejada (who originally gave police the name Jose Oliviera and who had driver’s licenses in two more names, police said) pleaded not guilty during his arraignment yesterday in Salem District Court to charges of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, giving a false name and using a falsified motor vehicle document.
Judge Matthew Nestor set bail at $25,000 cash, the amount requested by Salem police.
Lt. Conrad Prosniewski, the police prosecutor, told Nestor that Soto-Tejada is a “significant” dealer whose phone wouldn’t stop ringing after his arrest. Police had been making undercover purchases of heroin from Soto-Tejada prior to obtaining a search warrant, he said.
Police took advantage of the opportunity to nab two others, Diane Little and Michael Oxton, on heroin possession charges, after they agreed to meet with what turned out to be an undercover officer to purchase the drug.
Prosniewski said that while the bags were empty, one of them contained brown powder residue and was tied at a spot that would indicate that it contained more than an ounce of the drug.
Soto-Tejada’s lawyer, Steve Reardon, said his client has lived in the Boston area for a decade and, until recently, held a job as a warehouse worker before being laid off.
He urged a lower bail, no more than $5,000.
But when Nestor set the bail at five times that amount, a group of women seated in the courtroom stood up and appeared to be indicating that they would be able to post bail for Soto-Tejada.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Feb. 12.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.