Schenectady County

Traffic stop leads to federal drug charges against pair

Two man face federal drug charges after a traffic stop this week.

A local man being taken into custody this week for driving with a suspended license in Schenectady insisted to officers the suspensions had been cleared.

To prove it, he directed them to his wallet, where the paperwork would be.

Instead of finding the paperwork, though, the city police officer actually found a small bag of what turned out to be heroin, according to papers filed in federal court in Albany.

Two more small packets stamped “survivor” were soon found inside his car. Officers say they found 485 more packets, with the same stamp, under a nearby bush where the driver’s passenger was told to sit as officers spoke with the driver.

Officers also found a stolen gun inside the car.

Now, both the driver, Angel Perez, 33, of Maple Avenue, and his passenger, Carmen R. Centeno, 35, of Jackson Avenue, face federal drug charges. Perez also faces a federal weapons count.

Perez and Centeno were already charged locally in connection with the stop, but those charges are expected to be dismissed in favor of the federal prosecution, officials said..

The incident happened late Monday on Brandywine Avenue, according to papers filed in Schenectady County Court. Perez had just cut through a private parking lot and made an illegal left turn when he was pulled over, police said.

Police soon learned about his suspended license. Perez directed Centeno to give the officers his wallet, according to federal court paperwork. Finding the small bag of what turned out to be heroin, the officer called for a K-9 unit and told Centeno to get out and sit on a small garden landscape block to wait.

The officer handling the dog then spotted a loaded pistol magazine between the seats and an unloaded semiautomatic pistol in the center console. Officers said Perez later told them about the gun, but said it did not work.

The gun had been stolen from Pennsylvania in March 1989, according to papers filed in County Court.

Then the officer looked under the flowers where Centeno had been sitting and found the 485 packets of heroin, according to the federal paperwork.

Perez and Centeno were both charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin. Perez was also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

In County Court, Perez was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of stolen property. He was also charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and three traffic violations.

Centeno was also charged locally with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Federal prosecutor Daniel Hanlon said federal prosecutors took the case because of the presence of the gun, as there are generally harsher penalties in federal court. He said local charges are usually dismissed in favor of federal charges in such instances.

If convicted of both the drug and weapons counts, Perez faces up to 25 years in federal prison, Hanlon said. Centeno, because of a prior conviction, would face up to 30 years, if convicted on just the drug count, he said.

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