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Traffic stop turns into opium bust

July 08, 2006|By Tania Chatila

GLENDALE ? A routine traffic stop Thursday night resulted in the largest single opium seizure in Glendale's 100-year history, police said.

Police arrested 35-year-old Ebrahim Kalatehe Thursday night after allegedly finding a box filled with 12 pounds of opium in the back of his Ford Aerostar minivan.

"It's a very, very significant seizure," Glendale Police Det. Joe Allen said.

Glendale Police Officer Maribel Sumner and her K9, Yudy, stopped Kalatehe, of Glendale, in the 1100 block of Thompson Avenue at about 10 p.m. for a traffic violation, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

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"During the traffic stop, the driver was found with a small amount of opium in his pocket," he said.

Sumner and Yudy then searched Kalatehe's van, and found the cardboard box containing bags of opium, Allen said.

The stop was made because Kalatehe failed to use his vehicle's turn signals when making a turn, Balian added.

"From what I understand, the vehicle was rather messy, but this box was placed in the rear section of the van and it appeared that he was transporting it," Allen said.

Kalatehe was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale and suspicion of transportation of a controlled substance.

Police are still investigating what Kalatehe was allegedly doing with the opium.

"At this moment, we don't know whether he was delivering it, or whether he was an insignificant or very significant distributor," Allen said, adding that police do not know yet if Kalatehe has a criminal history.

But the opium seizure is the largest single seizure of the drug in Glendale in the city's history, Balian.

"The street value is about $480,000, close to half a million dollars," he said.

And the 12 pounds seized represents a day's dose of opium for about 1,500 users, Allen said.

"I think this enlightens others that the law enforcement community has become much more aware of opium and its potential harm to the community," Allen said.

While opium is not necessarily a problem-drug in Glendale, it is a drug of choice for certain groups, Allen said.

"Opium is something that we don't see much on the surface, but it's a demographically associated drug," he said. "It's very significant in the Middle-Eastern culture."

Due the cultural background, Middle-Easterners are more apt to turn to opium while other cultures will likely turn to heroin instead, which is a derivative of opium, Allen said.

Kalatehe is being held at the Glendale City Jail on $30,000 bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned at Glendale Superior Court on Monday.

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