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Police uncover fentanyl stash

  • Heaven N. Lee (Hanover Police photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2023 6:44:32 PM
Modified: 1/26/2023 5:48:56 PM

HANOVER — A rental car’s emergency alert system helped lead Hanover police to one of their largest-ever seizures of fentanyl, an example how technology in cars is changing both vehicular emergency response and law enforcement.

Hanover police announced Monday it seized 2,200 tablets of fentanyl, with an estimated street value of about $25,000, when it responded to a “crash alert” that had been activated on an Avis rental car on Hanover Center Road last month.

The fentanyl — which had been pressed into “pills” — was only discovered after Hanover police had obtained a warrant to search the vehicle. By that time, the female driver of the car, who had been arrested and charged at the scene with driving under the influence, had been processed and is now at large, according to Hanover Police Lt. Michael Schibuola.

On Monday, Hanover police issued an arrest warrant for Heaven N. Lee, 24, and charged her with two felony counts of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and 182 grams of methamphetamine.

“She was booked at the jail in Haverhill and spent a few days there. We were getting the search warrant over the weekend, and by the time we got, it she was already released,” Schibuola said on Tuesday.

Lee provided Hanover police with a home address in Ridgeland, Miss., a suburb of Jackson, but she also appears to have recently lived in Connecticut and has other DUI offenses in New Hampshire and other states, according to court records.

A passenger, Roberto Perez, of Hartford, Conn., was in the car with Lee. He has not been charged with any offense, although Perez is suspected of drug activity in Lebanon, according to the affidavit in support of Lee’s arrest and charges. The affidavit was prepared by Officer Joseph Landry of Hanover Police Department.

Schibuola said that Roberto Perez is the brother of Barry Perez, also of Hartford, Conn. Berlin, Vt., police arrested Barry Perez last month and charged him with kidnapping and aggravated assault after he allegedly commandeered an 18-wheeler at gunpoint on Interstate 89 near Berlin on Jan. 13.

Hanover police said they were alerted to a potential problem with Lee’s vehicle when their dispatch center was alerted at 6:36 a.m. on Jan. 13 — the same day as the alleged hijacking of the tractor trailer — that the rented Camry had been involved in a possible accident in Etna village, according to the affidavit.

Lee’s vehicle was identified and observed by police driving on roads in Etna until it eventually pulled into the parking lot of Hypertherm in Hanover, where a Hanover police officer made contact.

Suspecting Lee was impaired, police obtained her consent to conduct a field sobriety test, which she failed, according to the affidavit.

Asked by the police officer what brought her to Etna so early in the morning, Lee answered that she was “looking for the ‘Super 8,’ ” the affidavit said. (The only Super 8 Motel in the Upper Valley is several miles away in White River Junction).

Although it is not clear whether the emergency sensor device in the rental car that Lee was driving had been activated by an accident or manually, such devices are providing public safety officials with valuable real-time information in responding to vehicular accidents and crime, according to Doug Hackett, communications coordinator with the Hanover Police Department.

The devices are installed by car manufacturers, and drivers can pay a monthly subscription fee as they would for satellite radio. The transponders are routinely installed in rental fleets and can pinpoint a car’s location via GPS coordinates and relay a variety of information about the car’s operation, such as speed and air bag deployment. They can even detect voice activity inside the vehicle.

In the case of a car accident, the information is instantly relayed to the device’s service operator — such as OnStar — which in turn contacts the emergency dispatch center with the information.

Hackett said Hanover dispatch is receiving “about five or six” calls per month triggered by the crash sensors, which can provide information and data about an incident before most people are able to call in a report over their cell phones.

“It helps us get the EMS crew out faster,” Hackett said.

Most renters may not be aware their vehicle is electronically tethered to the car rental agency, although the car rental companies disclose the information in the fine print of the rental agreement under a section called “vehicle data.”

The technology is now a critical tool in vehicle fleet management, tracking, security and safety, Hackett said.

“This is a big thing for the car rental companies,” Hackett said of the technology.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.


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