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Traffic stop leads to big bust for Wellsville K9 unit

WELLSVILLE-The Wellsville K9 unit scored a sizable drug bust last week when a routine traffic stop turned up a large quantity of crack cocaine.

Patrolman Joe Saraniti initiated a traffic stop on State Route 7 near 5th Street last Thursday afternoon after observing a gray Hyundai Sonata traveling southbound 69 mph in a 55mph zone. While speaking to the driver, Maurice R. Watkins of Steubenville, Saraniti noticed the odor of marijuana coming from the interior of the vehicle.

Patrolman John Bucher was called to the scene to provide backup as Saraniti’s K9 partner, Chief, conducted a narcotics sniff of the vehicle. Before search began Watkins admitted to having marijuana in the car and was asked to step out so that K9 Chief could conduct a narcotics sniff of the vehicle. Once outside of the vehicle, Watkins voluntarily emptied the contents of his pockets on to the trunk of the vehicle. Among the items Watkins removed from his pocket was a wallet with a suspiciously large sum of cash folded up inside.

Watkins and his passenger were placed in the rear seat of separate patrol cars while Saraniti and Chief began a narcotics sniff of the vehicle’s. During the search, Chief indicated there were narcotics in the passenger side door area and middle armrest compartment of the vehicle, where Watkins had earlier admitted there was a bag of marijuana. Chief then alerted in the area of the driver’s side seat. Police recovered a small bag of marijuana from the center console and large bag of a gray, chunky substance suspected to be crack cocaine was found under the driver’s side seat inside of a blue water bottle.

While still at the scene Watkins admitted the crack cocaine was his, saying he did not want to get the vehicle’s passenger, his fiancee, in trouble. The suspected crack was tested by police and tested positive for the presence of cocaine. The suspected bag of crack cocaine weighed in at approximately 86 grams.

Watkins was taken into custody by police and transported to jail. The marijuana, crack cocaine and money was seized by police. Watkins may face drug trafficking charges once police receive the results of lab tests performed on the suspected drugs according to Lt. Ed Wilson.