BALTIMORE — A Lodi, N.J., man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for transporting 13 kilograms of cocaine through Maryland, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Maryland State Police (MSP) and the Cecil County Sheriff's Office.
Jonathan Melendez, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles March 29 to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.
According to Melendez's guilty plea, on March 9, 2010, Melendez was driving a rental car northbound on I-95, when he was pulled over for speeding by the MSP. While the trooper was conducting his initial interview, he noticed that Melendez appeared excessively nervous, breathing rapidly and his hand began to tremble heavily as he handed the trooper his driver's license. The trooper asked Melendez to get out of the car in order to further explain the reasons for the vehicle being stopped and noticed that Melendez was increasingly more nervous, although he had been advised by the trooper that he was only going to be issued a warning ticket for the traffic violations. Based on Melendez's excessive nervousness, the one-way vehicle rental and other indicators, the trooper requested that a narcotics detector K-9 come to his location. The K-9 scanned the vehicle and gave a positive indication for the presence of narcotics odors. MSP troopers then conducted a search of the vehicle and located a blue duffle bag containing 13 kilogram-sized "bricks" of cocaine in the trunk of the car. Melendez was arrested and subsequently admitted that he had picked up the cocaine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for transport to New York City.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Romano.