LEWISTON — Two New York men were charged with drug trafficking after authorities found bags of crack cocaine hidden in their buttocks.

Michael Vincent Artis, 25, and Cuwan Merrit, 29, of Brooklyn were booked at Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn. Bail was set for each at $25,000 cash at an initial appearance Monday at 8th District Court.

Each was charged with one count of unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Each also was charged with illegal importation of scheduled drugs and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs. The maximum penalty for each of those Class C felony charges is five years in prison.

Auburn police officers, along with Maine State Police and Maine and federal drugs agents, watched for a car bound for Maine from Boston’s South Station a week ago on a tip from a confidential source. Authorities tracked the car as it headed north on the Maine Turnpike and spotted it passing the Gray Service Plaza early Saturday morning. Authorities followed the car in which the two suspects were seated in the back. As the car left the highway at the Auburn exit, authorities switched on blue lights and sirens.

The dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta driven by a local woman pulled over near Washington Street. A drug-trained dog belonging to a Maine State Police trooper indicated the presence of drugs on Artis and Merrit.

Agents “initially located a bulge in the back of Artis’ pants near his butt. Agents searching Artis pulled out a plastic zip lock bag containing a plastic sandwich baggy which contained several pre-packaged .05 gram Dominican ties containing (crack) cocaine base,” David Madore, a task force agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration wrote in an affidavit. The total weight of the drug was 24.1 grams.


Both men were taken to the jail for booking.

There, officers discovered a plastic sandwich baggy partially inside Merrit’s body cavity. He was transferred to Central Maine Medical Center for medical clearance. As he was walking into the hospital, the bag slipped down his pant leg onto the ground outside the ambulance door, according to Madore’s affidavit. The baggy, which contained 12.8 grams of crack cocaine, was discovered by an ambulance worker and given to drug agents.

Neither man had identification at the time of his arrest. Their identities were later confirmed by the FBI through fingerprints.

Later that morning, jail workers said the two men were overheard talking through their holding cells about their arrests. The corrections officer told Madore that Artis and Merrit were saying they believed they knew who the informant was and that they were going to “kill that bitch.”

A judge attached bail conditions should the men be released from jail. The conditions include no alcohol or illegal drugs for which they can be searched and tested at random, and no contact with the other co-defendant and anyone else who was in the car in which they were riding when they were detained.

Because they are charged with felonies, the judge didn’t take any pleas. Felony charges must be presented to a grand jury.


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