A Springfield teenager is being held on $100,000 bail after police allegedly seized more than 3,000 bags of heroin and a loaded .38-caliber firearm during a raid at his home.
Jose Mendez, 18, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Springfield District Court to heroin trafficking, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition without a firearms identification card and improper storage of a firearm.
Following an extensive investigation, narcotics detectives raided a Marion Street home around 8 a.m. Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Mary Simeoli said.
In addition to 3,070 bags of heroin, many stamped with the name and likeness of slain Springifeld crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, detectives found $2,100 in cash and a loaded revolver, Simeoli said.
Mendez told investigators the gun, drugs and cash belonged to him and not his family members. When police asked if he was selling the drugs, he responded: "If you want to put it that way, yes," Simeoli said.
The gun was found in cardboard box in his third-floor bedroom, close to a crib holding Mendez's infant son, the prosecutor said.
She asked for $100,000 bail, citing the volume of drugs seized, the loaded firearm and a firearms-related arrest that Mendez picked up as a 15-year-old.
Defense lawyer Joe A. Smith III opposed the bail request, calling it "grossly excessive."
Mendez has strong family ties to the Springfield area and poses no risk of flight, according to Smith, who said both of the defendant's parents came to court to support him.
During the raid, Mendez not only took responsibility for the drugs, he showed the detectives where to find them, the lawyer said. "He was as cooperative as a person could be," Smith said.
He asked Judge William Boyle to set bail at $10,000, with GPS monitoring if necessary. He also suggested that Mendez be required to attend GED classes while out on bail.
Boyle set bail at $100,000 and continued the case for Feb. 22.
The raid was conducted by Springfield police, the Hampden County Narcotics Task Force and Massachusetts State Police. They obtained a search warrant for the address based on surveillance and three heroin purchases made by a cooperating source, Simeoli said.
The packets were either stamped with Bruno's name and image or "Louis Vuitton," the brand name of a line of designer handbags and luggage. Law enforcement officials say the stamps sometimes signify a particular type of heroin, but are often meaningless since they change frequently and are quickly copied by other dealers.
Bruno, a high-profile Springfield mobster, was shot to death outside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Social Club in 2003. Federal prosecutors said the killing was sanctioned by top Genovese crime family members after Bruno had allegedly discussed mob business with FBI Agent Clifford Hedges.
From Kurt Cobain to Donald Trump, names of celebrities, politicians and athletes have been found on heroin packets seized locally. But the appearance of Bruno's name and image apparently marks the first time a local figure has been spotted on a drug stamp. Given his professed disdain for drugs, Bruno might not have appreciated the tribute.