Pot arrests result from traffic stop

WESTFIELD- Two city men were arrested Sunday after a state trooper made a routine traffic stop on Meadow Street and found that the occupants were in possession of marijuana packaged for sale.
Trooper Thomas F. Tobin of the Russell state police barracks reports that his attention was drawn to the vehicle when he was monitoring traffic and he stopped it after he observed a lights violation on Meadow Street.
Tobin found the vehicle to be occupied by two persons, neither of whom was wearing a seatbelt.
Although the operator produced his license, the trooper noted he made no effort to find the vehicle’s registration. When asked, he said the vehicle was owned by the passenger’s mother.
Tobin noted that the operator, later identified as Christopher Zarlengo, 26, of 24 Irene Drive, appeared to be nervous and he kept turning his attention to the passenger.
Tobin reports that when he approached the passenger he immediately smelled the odor of fresh marijuana.
When Tobin spoke to the passenger, later identified as Justin Benson, 25, of 48 Montgomery Street, he did not elicit a response and Zarlengo urged the man to look for the registration in the glove compartment.
Tobin reports that, when Benson opened the glove compartment, he immediately observed a large amount of currency in plain view.
Tobin asked both occupants if they were in possession of drugs or weapons and was told that each had less than an ounce of marijuana.
The two men were ordered out of the vehicle, one at a time.
Both men were found to have marijuana in their possession.
Benson had one bag and Zarlengo had three bags containing a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.
Further inspection of the vehicle revealed a gallon sized plastic bag containing a large amount of additional marijuana, which neither man claimed.
Neither man claimed the money.
The two men were transported to Russell State Police Barracks where they were charged with possession of a Class D substance with intent to distribute and for a failure to wear a seatbelt.
In addition, Zarlengo was charged with operating a motor vehicle without its registration in his possession and a motor vehicle lights violation.
During the booking process, Benson was found to have, concealed in his underwear, a roll of cash packaged similarly to the money found in the glove compartment.
The total amount of cash seized was found to be $6,080.
Both men were arraigned in Westfield District Court before Judge Philip A. Contant on Monday.
Benson was released on $1000 personal surety, pending an April 18 hearing.
Zarlengo pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to a one-year term in the house of correction, suspended, with probation for one year.
He was assessed $190 and was found to be responsible for the other charges.
He was also found to have violated probation imposed November 2, 2012, when he submitted to facts sufficient to warrant a guilty finding for a charge of possession of a Class D drug with intent to distribute brought by Southwick police and was found to be guilty of that charge.
He as sentenced to a six month term in the house of correction, suspended, with probation for one year.
Contant ordered that, in the event Zarlengo again violates probation, the new term will be served after he completes the six month term resulting from the charge brought by Southwick police.
Contant also ordered that the money found during the incident be forfeited.

Megan H. Bishop contributed to this report.

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