Detective Provides Fentanyl Trafficking Scheme Lessons in Drug Preliminary

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By Gina Kim

MODESTO, CA – It sounded more like a classroom than a courtroom here in Stanislaus County Superior Court last week when a detective testified about details of a search and drugs.

Detective Leland Lawson was the prosecution’s key witness expert to the possession of narcotics for sales in a preliminary hearing investigating alleged fentanyl trafficker Sharma Kumar, held on felony charges of transportation and possession of narcotics for sale.

On the day of Kumar’s arrest, Detective Lawson conducted a search of the accused’s vehicle. While photographing the scene he found a knife in the driver’s side floorboard taped open. He then said that he noticed the shrouding around the center counsel vents, where air conditioner and heating would come out, appeared loose.

After removing the shrouding, Detective Lawson told the court he discovered a soft mesh version of a black Oakley sunglasses case in a void. He immediately identified a bag full of several different colors of powdered narcotics—including yellow, purple, green, white variations.

Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hogan inquired whether Detective Lawson’s previous training and experience revealed certain patterns or trends related to narcotics’ coloring in California.

Detective Lawson confirmed this trend was most commonly found in the drug fentanyl’s powdered form and added this type of drug often originated from the Bay Area, and would be transported through the Central Valley, said Lawson, who described the multi-colored fentanyl as a marketing “gimmick” to increase prices for different users.

“[Dealers] would specifically say that one color of fentanyl would be more potent than another color, and thus they could charge more money,” Lawson said, noting the marketing scheme was a more recent development in the area dating back only 18 months ago.

Upon further prompting by the prosecution, Detective Lawson elaborated that the various colored narcotics in Kumar’s vehicle were contained in separate clear cellophane wrapped bags, as well as another clear bag of crystal meth in the same bundle.

Detective Lawson said they uncovered another void alongside the engine compartment located on the passenger side closest to the windshield holding 37 “apple baggies”—dime-sized plastic bags with apple logos on them. Detective Lawson confirmed these types of baggies were commonly used for narcotic sales. Three scales, two functional and one without batteries, were also recovered.

Deputy Garcia, who performed the arrest the day of the incident, seized $1,000 in a heat-sealed package during his search, as well as an addition $241 in the accused’s wallet.

Prior to the arrest, Detective Lawson had been aware of investigations around Kumar regarding the selling of fentanyl and meth, noting, “My opinion is that both the methamphetamine and powdered fentanyl I located were for the purposes of sales.”

Detective Lawson informed the court the amount of fentanyl found in this case was “far greater than any person, even an addict” could possess—31 grams compared to the average individual 1 to 2 grams.

The detective added that fentanyl is an extraordinarily powerful opioid, much stronger than any street drug currently on the market, and requires a much smaller amount than any other drug to get high.

Furthermore, the 20 grams of meth were consistent with the amount for sales. If it were only used for the accused, the amount would “place the defendant in 200 doses,” Lawson explained.

Detective Lawson suggested the additional bags found on the scene were to be used to distribute the bulk amount of methamphetamines later.

DDA Hogan inquired as to whether it was important for drug dealers to be mobile for the purposes of sales.

“Often drug addicts cannot afford to become mobile themselves in terms of having a reliable vehicle or anything other than a bicycle due to the financial consumption the drug causes them,” Lawson answered. “So for a dealer to go to the addict is quite common.”

Judge Reeves found enough reason for the defendant to be guilty on all charges, and ruled the case will be going to trial. The court will reconvene for an arraignment prior to a trial setting hearing March 3.

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About The Author

Gina is a sophomore at UCSB majoring in History of Public Policy and Law. She's an aspiring professional writing minor interested in studying law.

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