The Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force arrested an Island man on Monday as he was driving off the ferry in Vineyard Haven with 50 grams of uncut heroin hidden in the brake light of his pickup truck.
Police said the heroin has an estimated street value of $10,000.
Richard J. Morris, 55, of Oak Bluffs was arrested just after 4:30 p.m. while coming off the Island Home ferry in his Dodge truck and charged with trafficking heroin, receiving stolen property, illegal possession of prescription drugs, and carrying a dangerous weapon — a 27-inch blade concealed inside a walking cane on the dashboard of his truck.
He was also charged with being a common receiver of stolen property, which applies to anyone with previous convictions for buying and receiving stolen property.
State police Sgt. Neal Maciel said the felony charge can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
The arrest was made by a team of Island police, including members of the Massachusetts state police and the Island drug task force, as well as members of the Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, and Worcester police departments.
Mr. Morris was arraigned Tuesday morning in Edgartown district court. Taking into account his lengthy criminal record, clerk magistrate Liza Williamson set bail at $20,000; as of yesterday he was still being held at the Edgartown house of correction and was due back in court this morning.
Sergeant Maciel said the drug task force, headed by state police Sgt. Jeff Stone, has been investigating Mr. Morris for some time on suspicion he was routinely driving to Worcester to buy heroin to bring back to the Island.
The investigation took a turn Tuesday morning when a Worcester police officer called the Island state police barracks to follow up on an investigation at one of the scrap metal yards there.
The officer was checking the background of Mr. Morris, who had traveled to Worcester on two separate occasions and sold some $9,000 worth of copper wire at a local scrap yard. Sergeant Maciel said he called NSTAR and learned that a large amount of copper wire had been stolen from the electric company facility in Oak Bluffs.
Meanwhile police learned Mr. Morris had been in Worcester earlier in the day, and was headed back to the Vineyard — possibly with illegal drugs.
“Things just came together. We set up a team [of police] to wait for Mr. Morris who was coming back on the [afternoon ferry],” Sergeant Maciel said.
When police apprehended Mr. Morris, he said he had obtained the wire from the property of an Island man who recently died, but the story didn’t match the one he gave in Worcester when he tried to sell the wire. Mr. Morris was taken into custody on suspicion of receiving stolen property.
The drug task force asked state police from the mainland to send a K-9 unit to the Island to aid the investigation. State trooper Greg Keane arrived on the Island around 8:15 p.m. with his specially trained dog Karo.
Work by the dog showed the possible presence of narcotics near one corner of the truck bed. Closer examination revealed scratches around a brake light cover.
Sergeant Stone removed the brake light cover and found a package wrapped in duct tape which contained five fingers of heroin, each about 10 grams. The brake compartment also contained 18 bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee, a large bag of cat food and some pastry, an apparent attempt to mask the scent of the drugs from police dogs.
Police also found a camera that contained pictures of marijuana plants and photos of Mr. Morris with copper wire in his back yard.