Crime

NORTH EAST — Two men have been charged with drug importation and other offenses after investigators confiscated 121 pounds of suspect marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $300,000 during an Interstate 95 traffic stop near North East, according to Cecil County District Court records.

Investigators identified the suspects as Chuan Xin Cai, 33, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Fanchao Zeng, 29, of Flushing, N.Y.

Maryland State Police Sgt. C. Conner started his investigation at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Friday, when he stopped a 2018 Ford F-150 driven by Cai in the southbound lane of I-95, about one mile north of the North East/Rising Sun interchange, for allegedly speeding and for following a vehicle too closely, police said. Zeng was his front-seat passenger, police added.

During the traffic stop, Conner “detected numerous indicators of criminal activity and believed that the two were actively engaged in a drug crime,” according to charging documents. Law enforcement officers typically do not publicly specify indicators of criminal activity, to avoid compromising future investigations.

Conner dispatched MSP Cpl. Hirsch and his specially trained scent dog, K9 Pascal, which alerted to the presence of illegal drugs while performing a sniff scan outside the suspects’ pickup truck, court records allege. That led to a probable-cause search of the Ford, police reported.

During the search, Conner found and confiscated 100 heat-sealed bags containing suspect marijuana, according to charging documents. The suspect marijuana had a total weight of 55,156 grams, which translates to 121.6 pounds or 55 kilos, court records allege. Investigators later field-tested samples taken from the bags, and the results identified the substance as marijuana, court records show.

Conner arrested Cai and Zeng at the traffic stop scene, police reported.

“It is suspected, based on evidence, that the two were transporting the marijuana from New York to the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area,” Conner outlines in his written statement of probable cause contained in court records. “The estimated street value of the suspected marijuana is $304,000. Based on the sheer amount of the marijuana seized, this shows an indication to distribute and is clearly over the 45-kilogram threshold for importation.”

Cai and Zeng are each charged with importing marijuana into the state and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute — felonies that are punishable by up to 10 years and five years in prison respectively if convicted, according to court records, which further indicate that both also are facing a misdemeanor count of possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana. Cai and Zeng are scheduled for June 2 preliminary hearings.

After their bail review hearings on Monday, both remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond, court records show.

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