A routine traffic stop triggered by a vehicle’s dark windows led to the arrest of a man and a woman on drug charges and the discovery of 54 bags of suspected heroin in a hidden compartment of their minivan, State Police said.
Trooper Daniel Doiron was patrolling Interstate 93 in Andover Saturday around 5 p.m. when he observed a blue Chrysler Voyager traveling north with windows tinted so dark that he could not see the operator, David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said Monday.
After pulling the minivan over, Doiron found a male driver riding with a female passenger. The driver told the trooper that he did not know how dark the tint was on the minivan because the vehicle was not his, Procopio said. The minivan is registered to a Lawrence woman, Procopio said.
When Doiron asked for identification, the man provided a Maine state ID and an identification card from Puerto Rico that “seemed phoney,’’ Procopio said.
The driver also said he did not know who the woman was and told police she was in the van only because he had been ordered to pick her up from a Jamaica Plain supermarket and drive her to Lawrence.
The woman, meanwhile, told Doiron that she did not have any identification with her, but in the woman’s purse, Doiron allegedly spotted some cards and paperwork, a large amount of cash and two drug prescription bottles.
Procopio said that after Doiron asked the woman to inspect her bag, the trooper found two full prescription pill bottles, one without a label and one with another woman’s name who was not an occupant in the vehicle.
Both individuals were arrested. The driver and passenger were later identified as Luis Sanchez-Moreta, 38, of Lawrence, and Xiomara Ortiz, 48, of Jamaica Plain.
Sanchez-Moreta is known to have used several other aliases in the past, State Police said.
The minivan was towed to Lawrence, where it was searched by a police dog. Troopers then found a hidden compartment under the rear seat of the minivan allegedly containing 54 small bags of heroin, approximately 604 grams total.
State Police said they also found $6,530 in cash in Ortiz’s purse.
Sanchez-Moreta was charged with unlicensed operation of a vehicle, excessive window tint, trafficking of heroin, and refusing to identify himself to police. He also had three other warrants.
Ortiz was charged with trafficking of heroin, refusing to identify herself to police, possession of a Class E drug, and failure to wear a seat belt. She also had an existing active warrant for trafficking of cocaine.
Both pleaded not guilty to the charges at their arraignment in Lawrence District Court. according to the court clerk’s office. Bail was set at $750,000 cash for Sanchez-Moreta and $500,000 cash for Ortiz. Both also had their bails revoked in open cases in other courts, meaning that if they post the cash bail they will still be held.
The suspects are being investigated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on their immigration status, because it was indicated that Sanchez-Moreta had previously been ordered deported, said Procopio.Sarah N. Mattero can be
reached at sarah.mattero@