A man accused of producing and selling heroin in New London, Conn., is gone, after the state gave him back his passport. He has twice missed his court dates, and has likely fled to the Dominican Republic.
Jacob Mena, 24, vanished some time after securing a $75,000 surety bond and his attorney arranged for his passport, seized by police, to be returned to him by court officials.
The bondsman who helped Mena secure the bond began asking Mena’s sister where he was after he missed his first court date on April 11. His sister replied: “He left,” adding he went on vacation in the Dominican Republic where their father lives. He told family he would be back in the States after his jaunt on April 20 but never came back.
Mena was charged in February with “possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a housing project, operating a drug factory, possession of drug paraphernalia and interfering with a search warrant,” according to Connecticut newspaper, The Day. Police reportedly seized 64 grams of heroin from his girlfriend’s apartment.
His U.S. immigration status is unclear.
Also arrested with Mena were Clifton Barrows, 39, and Robert Piscitello, 35 — also charged with possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet, along with two others. Police seized a total of 307 grams of heroin.
The news comes as a heroin epidemic rages and Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy implemented sweeping changes to Connecticut drug laws to greatly reduce penalties for possession. That could possibly help the accused, should they plead to lesser charges.
Republicans leaders in Congress are also working hard to pass an White House-backed rewrite of sentencing rules that is being dubbed by critics as a “jailbreak” bill.
The bill would retroactively slash the sentences of “high-level repeat drug offenders,” who are convicts guilty of trafficking over a kilogram or more of heroin.
More than half a million Americans have died from drug overdoses in the past decade, largely thanks to heroin and other opiates. Overdoses killed 47,055 in 2014 alone, more than every before in U.S. history.
The “rehabilitate and release” strategy pursued by both parties hasn’t been embraced by the public, however. Crime, law, and order have emerged as a major theme of the 2016 election cycle as violent crime soars and voters, especially minorities, identify it as one of their greatest worries.