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Published: Saturday, 12/7/2002

3 are arraigned on drug counts in turnpike bust

Three men were arraigned yesterday in Maumee Municipal Court on drug charges after Ohio Highway Patrol troopers stopped them on the turnpike near Toledo Express Airport, and seized about 100 pounds of suspected marijuana.

The suspected drugs have an estimated value of $226,800, troopers said.

The bust occurred Thursday. It continues a nearly year-long trend of the troopers' making drug arrests on the toll road on Thursdays.

“There is no cause-and-effect with the day of the week,” Lt. Gary Lewis, a patrol spokesman in Columbus, said. “It's just good, solid police work.”

Jose Ramos, 23, who has no permanent address, was charged with possession of criminal tools, possession of drugs, and trafficking in drugs.

Onofre Navarro, 37, of Long Beach, Calif., was charged with conspiracy to drug trafficking.

Armando Serrano, 35, also of Long Beach, was charged with conspiracy to drug trafficking.

The men were being held in the Lucas County Jail, each in lieu of $75,000 bond.

Troopers stopped Mr. Ramos, who was driving a pickup truck, about 5:15 p.m. for allegedly following too closely. Mr. Serrano was his passenger.

Mr. Navarro, who was driving a sport utility vehicle, was stopped about the same time and place for a marked lane violation.

“We developed information that they were working together,” the lieutenant said.

Troopers used a dog trained to detect drugs, which they said alerted them to a hidden compartment in the pickup. It contained 29 bricks of compressed marijuana, they said.

The men are scheduled to return to court Thursday.

Authorities are working with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to determine the men's residency status.

The late-week bust trend started Dec. 20, 2001, when two Seattle men were caught with 79 pounds of marijuana on the turnpike, also near the airport. The drugs had a value of about $180,000.

The men, Thi Ung Hoang and Tri Thanh Nguyen, are Vietnamese nationals who were 25 at the time. In April they were sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to one and two years in prison, respectively.

Nguyen was convicted on one count each of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed weapon. Hoang was convicted for possession of marijuana.

Since that bust last December, troopers have made 14 seizures of large amounts of drugs on the turnpike and I-280 - nine on Thursdays.

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