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Four charged in alleged Martinsburg cocaine deal

November 01, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - More than four pounds of cocaine in a lunch box was seized Wednesday morning in the Kmart parking lot near Martinsburg, off W.Va. 9 near U.S. 11.

Police arrested four people allegedly involved in a drug deal set up by an informant, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Joel Hernandez, 34, and Jerry T. White, 31, both of Lawrenceville, Ga., Veronica S. Hernandez, 31, of Norcross, Ga., and Juan A. Garcia, 29, address unknown, each were charged by West Virginia State Police Cpl. Brian Bean with one count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, according to the officer's complaint.

All four were in Eastern Regional Jail on Wednesday night on $250,000 cash-only bonds set by Magistrates Harry L. Snow and Joan V. Bragg.

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The deal for two kilos of cocaine - apparently delivered from Georgia and reported to be worth $50,000 - was at least the second large purchase of the drug set up by a police informant in Berkeley County this month. On Oct. 12, police confiscated more than a pound of cocaine from a man authorities described as a "heavy hitter" at an Inwood, W.Va., restaurant.

Area police officers with the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force arrested the four people Wednesday in the Kmart parking lot, according to Bean's complaint.

Before arriving at the store, the informant met with Garcia in the Sheetz parking lot off Exit 12 of Interstate 81, police said.

While parked behind Kmart, Bean said Garcia borrowed a screwdriver from the informant to retrieve the cocaine hidden in a white, full-size van. The informant also gave Garcia a cloth to put the two packages of cocaine in a lunch box to avoid leaving his fingerprints on it, Bean said.

The informant then left the immediate area and contacted police, who arrested Garcia and White after they drove to the front of the store, according to Bean's complaint. Joel and Veronica Hernandez were inside Kmart when the cocaine was confirmed to have been delivered and later were escorted from the store and arrested, Bean said.

Bean said the drug deal was made over a period of two weeks through a series of phone calls.

Garcia was accompanied by the Hernandezes in a Chevrolet Tahoe with Georgia license plates.

Bean said the Hernandezes told conflicting stories to police and White indicated he was paid $1,000 to drive the van, also bearing Georgia license plates, to Martinsburg.

The deal Wednesday was by far the largest of at least four purchases of cocaine involving police informants this month, police have said. The deal arranged at the Inwood restaurant was for $14,000, and the amount of cocaine was estimated to fill half of a cereal box, police have said.

Officers with the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and the Martinsburg Police Department are members of the regional law enforcement task force.

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