Gang-related heroin bust in Springfield
By ERIC FRANCIS
CORRESPONDENT | April 04,2013
ERIC FRANCIS PHOTO
Matthew Frangos, 16, of Jersey City, New Jersey was ordered held for lack of $100,000 bail Wednesday after Springfield Police said they caught him with a felony amount of heroin hidden in his pants.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A New Jersey teenager with reputed ties to the Bloods gang was in court Wednesday facing a felony count of heroin trafficking after his arrest in Springfield.
Matthew “Money Matt” Frangos, 16, of Jersey City, N.J., sat at the defense table in the courthouse in White River Junction wearing a red hooded tracksuit with a photograph on his back that appeared to be memorializing a dead gang member.
He watched as an innocent plea was entered on his behalf by a court-appointed public defender and a guardian who was brought in because of his age.
Deputy State’s Attorney David Cahill argued that Frangos’ youth was probably why gang members chose him to carry the drugs that were allegedly stuffed inside his pants when police pulled over a car in Springfield at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“I fear that we here in Vermont are starting to see a tactic that is pretty well entrenched in cities farther to our south,” Cahill told Judge Robert Gerety. “Criminal organizations involved in the distribution of drugs oftentimes entice their youngest members to engage in the riskiest behavior because the perception is that (as a juvenile) they would have less to lose … that they would be treated very differently than a similarly situated 25-year-old.”
Springfield Police Officer Allison Novasel wrote in her affidavit that Frangos and five other people were in the car when she stopped it on Union Street for improperly signaling a turn.
The driver and two passengers were local residents who were not charged with any offense. But seated in the back next to Frangos were two other New Jersey teens — Rafael “Bang” Jaquez, 18, and Daniel “DeeJay” Morales, 17 — who were in court earlier in the week.
Police said Morales was trying to hide but was spotted as officers asked the occupants to step out of the vehicle.
Jaquez and Morales had already been in court Monday in White River Junction after police had found them inside an apartment on Easter Sunday, seated at a table with a bag of .22-caliber ammunition between them.
They were released Monday after pleading guilty to giving police false names during the investigation into that incident.
During the traffic stop just after midnight Wednesday, police said, a police dog sniffed drugs within the car, so police began searching the occupants. Officers said Frangos had stuffed something into his track pants although he “continually stated it was nothing.”
Once at the Springfield police station, police said, Frangos said he had changed his mind and agreed to have his pants searched.
Police said they then found 50 bags if heroin weighing a total of 16 grams in the backseat of the police cruiser.
In court Wednesday, Cahill told the judge that Frangos already faces serious charges in his home county of Hudson, N.J.: distributing marijuana on school property and being a minor in possession of a firearm while committing a crime.
Cahill said the unemployed teenager had managed to post $75,000 bail in that case. Based on his previous ability to post a high bail in New Jersey and his apparent lack of ties to Vermont while facing up to 30 years in prison, Gerety set bail for Frangos at $100,000.