A Portland woman who was charged during a high-profile police raid earlier this year in that city was charged with possessing heroin Thursday after a Maine State Police trooper in Vassalboro stopped a car in which she was a passenger.
Amy Santiago, 36, was charged Thursday with possession of narcotic drugs and violating conditions of release and was taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, according to a news release Friday from Steve McCausland, a state police spokesman.
She was the subject of an earlier drug investigation in January in Portland.
Trooper Tyler Maloon, who made the traffic stop Thursday afternoon, said Santiago was charged later with falsifying physical evidence after he saw her on his cruiser video taking a hypodermic needle from her bra and throwing it into a snowbank and stomping on it. All three of the charges are misdemeanors.
She was scheduled to make her initial appearance in court Friday in Kennebec County.
Santiago was out on bail in connection with a prior heroin charge when she was arrested Thursday, McCausland said.
Maloon said the arrest “speaks a lot about the problem,” given that someone already subject to drug-related bail conditions decides to take a risk and continue to possess or use dangerous drugs.
“That’s how badly these people want the drugs,” he said. “They’re taking the risk of getting arrested again, having that contraband on them again, knowing that they’re able to be randomly searched at any time, any way. It’s a vicious cycle, I guess.”
Lt. Mark Brooks, of the state police Troop C barracks in Skowhegan, said Friday that the drug problem in Maine is serious and that more education and possibly more resources are needed to combat the dangers of using heroin and other narcotics. He said it was a routine traffic stop Thursday that netted the heroin and not part of any drug investigation.
Brooks said the fact that heroin and drug paraphernalia were found during a regular traffic stop is indicative of a pervasive drug problem in Maine.
“Unfortunately, we know it’s all around us, and we try to do everything to address it when we can, even through regular traffic enforcement where we find it inside of a vehicle,” Brooks said by phone Friday. “We know we have a problem in Maine. It’s hard to compare us to Massachusetts, maybe more like Vermont and New Hampshire. Talking to New England law enforcement officers, I know that they’re suffering the same challenges in terms of what heroin and many of the opioids are doing to our communities.”
Santiago was arrested in January on drug trafficking charges after a raid that prompted police to close down a section of Grant Street in Portland, where she lived, the Portland Press Herald reported. Santiago had been the subject of an ongoing investigation into heroin trafficking. Police had obtained a warrant for her arrest in advance of the raid, charging her with unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs.
Several people were in Santiago’s Portland apartment during that January raid, including two of her children, when the Portland Police Department’s Special Reaction Team and agents from Maine Drug Enforcement Agency entered the residence. Police decided to activate the department’s special reaction team because they had concerns that there might be weapons in Santiago’s apartment.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services took custody of Santiago’s children at the time.
She also has a history of other criminal charges, including theft of services, allowing a minor to possess or consume liquor and violating a condition of release in July, and use of drug paraphernalia in June. Information about the adjudication of those cases was not immediately available Friday afternoon.
In the Thursday arrest, trooper Maloon stopped a blue 2012 Dodge Avenger because of an expired inspection sticker on Bog Road in Vassalboro and found drug paraphernalia in Santiago’s purse, including several needles, cotton ball filters, plastic bags and Narcan. McCausland said one of the needles contained a brown liquid that later tested positive for heroin.
The traffic stop occurred about 2:15 p.m. Thursday, Maloon said. He said he did not charge the driver with having an expired sticker. Maloon added that three other people in the car, all teenagers, were not charged with any crimes or infractions. He said he was not certain if the driver, a female friend, was aware that Santiago had drugs on her.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367