$1.1 million seized in marijuana arrest

WESTFIELD – A two-year investigation by the Eastern Hampden County Narcotics Task Force led to the seizure Friday of more than a million dollars in cash and 118 pounds of “high quality” marijuana in an Agawam storage facility.
Friday’s activities began before dawn, according to city police reports, when members of the task force gathered at the Westfield police department to execute a warrant targeting Dennis L. Blair Jr., 38.
Detectives took up positions to watch his home at 19 Shepard St. and followed him when he left.
Knowing that Blair’s license to drive had been suspended, the officers waited for an opportune spot and stopped him, in Agawam, where he was arrested, by Agawam officers, for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
The task force officers, including the Agawam member, Det. Michael Gruska, and representatives of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, proceeded to an Agawam storage facility to execute the warrant at a storage locker rented by Blair.
Blair was booked on the motor vehicle violation in Agawam where he made a phone call and, a short time later while officers were searching the storage locker, a person arrived at  the storage business in a car which immediately left at a high rate of speed, apparently after the driver saw the officers searching.
Officers gave chase but lost the operator after he abandoned his vehicle in Suffield, Connecticut.
A cross check of the ownership of the abandoned vehicle and the tenants of the storage facility showed that the owner of the car also rented a storage unit and Southwick’s K-9 team of Officer Thomas Krutka and Jax was called into action.
When Jax was tasked to examine the door of the second suspect storage unit he immediately alerted to the presence of narcotics so officers secured that unit until a search warrant was obtained for that storage locker too.
When the warrant was secured and executed, the investigators found a vast amount of cash and marijuana which was later found to add up to more than $1.1 million and 118 pounds of marijuana.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon at the Agawam Police Department, the contraband was on display and Agawam Chief Eric P. Gillis said that that marijuana has “an estimated street value of $384,000” and said that the “active and ongoing investigation” involves the Hampden County District Attorney’s office, the U. S. Attorney’s office and the DEA.
He said “this case has implications that go well outside the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” and will continue. He said “We do have a target that’s been identified and we do believe that an arrest of that subject is imminent.”
Blair appeared in Westfield District Court before Judge Paul M. Vrabel and pleaded guilty to a charge of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. He was fined $500.

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