Police confiscated nearly 15 pounds of marijuana and almost $25,000 in cash over the weekend during a traffic stop along Harlem Avenue, marking it one of the largest random drug busts in recent years.
As a result of the alleged discovery, a 36-year-old Evanston man is facing felony drug charges.
At about 9:30 p.m. on April 5, patrol officer Jarlath Heveran was setting up to watch traffic near the intersection of Harlem and Roosevelt roads when he spotted a black BMW make a “hasty exit” from a corner gas station and then begin speeding north along Harlem Avenue. The officer followed the vehicle several blocks, clocking the car at 55 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to Heveran’s report. He stopped the vehicle just south of Garfield Avenue and while speaking with the driver, Charles Cawelle, “observed an odor of cannabis coming from inside the vehicle.”
It was at this point Heveran noticed a child’s car seat in the backseat of the BMW where a brown paper bag was resting. The officer called for backup and then asked Cawelle to get out of the car to answer a few questions.
According to Heveran’s report on the incident, Cawelle said the car belonged to his girlfriend and he was making a return trip to Evanston after stopping in Chicago. A passenger in the vehicle, who was not charged, allegedly told authorities that Cawelle was “the only person he knew from Jamaica” and the two were working on a video project together. The passenger stated he was a video editor and Cawelle had just picked him up to socialize for a few hours.
The passenger acknowledged the strong odor within the car, according to Heveran’s report, but said he didn’t know the source, only that it was “a very bad smell.”
A roadside search of the car revealed the paper bag in the backseat contained $15,900 in cash. More officers were called to the scene and then Heveran discovered a small box underneath the passenger seat containing an additional $8,900, also in cash.
In the trunk of the car, Heveran and Sgt. Steve Zanoni discovered a cardboard box that appeared to be the source of the odor. Authorities took the vehicle into custody and on a search warrant executed the following day, police found eight bags of marijuana weighing 14.9 pounds, according to the report.
“I would say it’s one of the largest cannabis arrests made by a traffic stop,” Police Chief Jim Ryan said.
Typically, the department will seize large amounts of narcotics as a result of a targeted investigation, said Ryan, and most often the illicit substance in those arrests is cocaine.
It’s clear Cawelle was trafficking for a larger organization, said Ryan, but authorities have no indication that it was gang related. There is also no evidence to suggest that the marijuana was being sold in Forest Park, according to Ryan.
In addition to the cash, drugs and the BMW, authorities also seized three cell phones from the two men, a wallet containing identification for the registered owner of the vehicle and another $109 in cash found in Cawelle’s possession, according to police.
Cawelle’s passenger, a Waukegan man, was not charged in the incident because there was no indication that he was aware of the drugs in the car, said Ryan, nor was there any evidence of drug use within the vehicle.
Cawelle was charged with felony drug possession and felony possession with intent to distribute. He was also cited for several traffic violations.