A routine traffic stop for an improper turn and fictitious license plates by Boardman police patrolmen John Gocala and Jake Lape on Feb. 13 ended-up with drug-related charges being filed against three persons, and the seizure more than $100,000.
For one person, Andre Little, 27, of 4524 Glade St., Hubbard, it would end up as his first encounter with Boardman police in a five-day period.
Shortly after 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 13. Officers Gocala and Lape, stopped a Toyota driven by Little. A passenger was Alan Rouse, who in July, 2012 was charged with trafficking in heroin. That case remains open and on the dockets of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
“The Toyota made an abrupt turn into the lot of Uptown Pizza, 4605 Market St., Ptl. Gocala said, noting he learned the license plates on the vehicle actually belonged on a Jeep.
Little told Gocala the Toyota was actually a rental vehicle that he had borrowed “from a female friend.” Police said two, other people were in the Toyota, identified as Alan M. Rouse, 27, of 47 5th St., Campbell; and Jimmy Figueroa, 18, of 457 Mistletoe, Youngstown.
“Everyone in the vehicle was fidgety and appeared nervous,” Officer Gocala said, adding while he was speaking with Little, he detected a strong odor of marihuana.
Gocala said he saw ‘in plain view’ a baggie of pot near the center console.
The pot was seized, as Gocala learned that no one in the Toyota had a valid driver’s license.
Police also found another baggie of pot “stuffed between the driver’s seat and middle console, and a third baggie was located in a storage area below the radio.”
Ptl. Lape, in only his third month on the job, then searched the trunk of the car and found two large shopping bags that contained some $111,000.
The discovery brought two agents of the Boardman Narcotics Enforcement Unit (NEU) to the scene of the stop, Sgt. Mike Hughes and Ptl. Tim Hughes, as well as Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Josh Wells.
Little, Rouse and Figueroa all denied any knowledge of the money in the trunk of the car, Officer Gocala said, adding the trio also denied ownership of the pot in the car.
All three were given misdemeanor citations for possession of pot and Little was additionally charged with driving without a license.
The money was seized by the DEA.
According to police records, Figueroa also had $741 in cash in his pocket and told police his grandmother gave it to him.
Five days later, Little was back in police custody when he was arrested at the Days Inn, 7393 South Ave.
In was near midnight on Feb. 18 when police were summoned to the Days Inn on a call of the odor of marihuana coming from a room that had been rented for the night.
Three Boardman police officers, Lt. Albert Kakascik, Ptl. Daryn Tallman and Ptl. Michael Salser went to room #115 and knocked on the door several times without answer.
Then the manager of the Inn, De Rel Black, tried to call the room, but no one answered. So Black, with a police escort, took the keys to the room and opened it for police.
Police observed several items scattered about the room, including a ‘black cinch sack.’
Officer Salser, looking for some type of identification, found none in the sack. But he did discover what he described as a large plastic bag that contained what was 1726 grams of heroin and a “large amount of money.”
Police learned the cinch bag contained a little more than $17,000, and the heroin, that totaled near 1.5 kilos, has a street value in bulk of an estimated $80,000. If sold by individual bindles, that value could broach some $200,000.
Police stopped their search of the room and NEU officers were summoned to the inn and set-up a surveillance.
Near 1:00 a.m., Little and a female identified as a nurses aid, Brittany Hampton, arrived at the room.
They were greeted by a contingent of law enforcement officers who were inside the room, including Det. Hughes, Officer Gocala, Ptl. Mike Dado, Ptl. Bryan Butto, Ptl. Paul Poulos and Special Agent Silverio Balzano.
Little and Hampton were taken to the ground, handcuffed and carted-off to the Boardman Police Department for booking.
Acting on a search warrant signed by Boardman Court Judge Joseph Houser, police seized a laptop computer, a play station, two money grams to an car rental (from Enterprise), $265 and two play station controllers from the room at the Days Inn.
Following his second encounter with the Boardman Police Department in five days, Little was lodged in the Mahoning County Jail on a $250,000 bond.
Hampton, 25, of 6767 Applewood Blvd., #3; was charged with trafficking in heroin and permitting drug abuse. She was lodged in the Mahoning County Jail on $25,000 bond and despite the fact she said she is employed, part-time as a nurses aid at Ivy Woods, 9625 Market St., North Lima; she was given a court-appointed attorney, but only after providing the first $1000 to the court for her legal fees.
Court records show that Rouse and Little are no stranger to law enforcement.
Rouse was charged with kidnapping of July, 2007. In Mar., 2009, he was charged with trafficking in cocaine and was placed on probation.
On July 24, 2012, Rouse was charged with trafficking in heroin and that case remains open nine months later.
Following his arrest by Boardman police in Feb., 2013, Rouse was picked-up on Mar. 11 by the Beaver Township PD on a charge of trafficking in drugs. Three days later, a Mahoning County Grand Jury issued an indictment on Rouse for trafficking in cocaine.
Beaver Township Police Chief Carl Frost confirmed that Rouse and three other persons were arrested when officers observed what they believed to be a drug transaction in the parking lot of a motel.
Two vehicles were stopped leaving the motel and approximately $10,000 in cash, eight grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine and marijuana were seized.
Rouse was charged with trafficking in drugs, cocaine; trafficking in drugs, heroin; endangering children, and possession of marijuana. He also had a warrant for his arrest on him issued by the Youngstown PD for failure to appear on misdemeanor drug charges when arrested by the Beaver Township police.
Little was charged with possession of drugs in 2008, and it wasn’t until May, 2010, that Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum sent him to the penitentiary for the crime.
A little over two years later, on June 29, 2012, Little was arrested on a felony charge of possession of drugs, and on that count it was on Nov. 7, 2012, that Judge John Durkin put Rouse on probation for the charge.
Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols said he has signed-off on paperwork to seize the some $128,000 that law enforcement officials took from Little on Feb. 13 and Feb. 18.
He cited the efforts of Ptl. Gocala on Feb. 13, noting the traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of $111,000 in cash is an example of what can happen when adequate numbers of police officers are available and on duty, and added that Ptl. Gocala “is very well attuned to what is going on, on the streets.”
Hampton is set for a preliminary hearing on Boardman Court on Apr. 9.
Little is set for a hearing on the charges in Boardman at Boardman Court on Apr. 23.