Bus driver's tip, Cheetos bag, spur conviction
An alert and conscientious VTA bus driver's tip started an investigation that led to the conviction of a career drug dealer in Edgartown Superior Court yesterday.
In a plea agreement, David A. Perez, 29, of Edgartown Road in West Tisbury, pleaded guilty to four charges, including cocaine trafficking, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and two separate charges of receiving stolen property. Associate Justice Robert Kane sentenced Mr. Perez to five years in state prison.
The path to prison for Mr. Perez began on May 22, as outlined by Cape and Island assistant district attorney Laura Marshard in court yesterday. On that day, she said, a bus driver noticed suspicious activity near the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury. The driver noted the license plate, called police and told them he saw Mr. Perez go into the woods, and return with a small package.
Police across Martha's Vineyard were on the lookout for Mr. Perez. West Tisbury police spotted him on Blackthorn Road a few days later, sleeping in his car. According to Ms. Marshard, he gave consent for police to search his car, but they found nothing. Later, however, they discovered a quantity of cocaine about 15 feet away, wrapped in a torn Cheetos bag. Edgartown police spotted a car driven by Mr. Perez on May 29. They stopped him and took him into custody, along with his passenger, Lindsey Gonsalves. Police recovered from the car part of a piece of the Cheetos bag that fit exactly into the bag they recovered near Blackthorn Road several days earlier. According to police, seven grams of heroin were seized from Ms. Gonsalves at the time of the couple's arrest. Drug charges are pending against Ms. Gonsalves in Edgartown District Court.
Mr. Perez was also accused of receiving stolen property, in a case involving a police radio. The arresting officer, Edgartown detective Jonathan Searle, said in his report that as he approached Mr. Perez's car, he tuned his radio to an emergency channel on which Mr. Perez was previously heard impersonating state police sergeant Jeff Stone, head of Martha's Vineyard's drug task force. When detective Searle pressed the talk button on his own radio, he heard a loud squelch coming from a radio inside Mr. Perez's car. The second stolen property charge stemmed from a 52-inch television found in the home where Mr. Perez was living with Ms. Gonsalves and their young child. The serial number on the television matched that of one reported stolen from a shipping company, Cape Cod Express.
Mr. Perez admitted to the facts outlined by Ms. Marshard in court, as part of his plea agreement.
"This is a good example of a community working with police," said Ms. Marshard. "A bus driver sees somebody, brings it to the attention of police. Because West Tisbury police were diligent in their investigation, we were able to get more than 60 grams of drugs off the street, and a person heavily involved in the trafficking of narcotics out of the community."
Mr. Perez has an extensive record of arrests on narcotics charges dating back to 1999. He is currently facing a charge of heroin trafficking in Plymouth Superior Court, where he is due to appear on January 12.