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Officers seize 117 pounds of marijuana

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 12, 1998

HAHNVILLE – The conference table groaned from the 117 pounds of marijuana confiscated Saturday morning on Interstate 10. St. CharlesSheriff Greg Champagne peered from behind the wrapped and stacked bundles into the cameras and smiled.

It is the largest single seizure of marijuana on record in St. CharlesParish, with a street value of $150,000.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Champagne reported the arrests of two men who were allegedly caught with the drugs in the trunk of a car headed toward New Orleans.

Arrested were Charles A. Neuman, 23, 2406 Houma Blvd., Metairie, andSteven M. Romsky, 20, 137 North Cortez, New Orleans.Each was charged with possession of more than 60 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute and illegal carrying of weapons. Neuman, with aprior armed robbery conviction, was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

On Saturday, Deputy Chester Kowalski was on routine patrol on Interstate 10. Champagne said patrols had been stepped up because of an apparentincrease in accidents and drunken driving.

At 5:30 a.m., Kowalski noticed a black 1990 Nissan Maxima pass hismarked police unit and nearly collide with the rear of a vehicle in the inside eastbound lane. The Nissan then swerved in front of Kowalski’svehicle and nearly struck a second car.

Kowalski, suspecting a drunken driver, gave chase and soon pulled the suspect car to the shoulder. He noticed the driver, Neuman, seemed”unusually nervous,” Champagne said. During initial questioning, oneclaimed they were returning from casinos in the Lake Charles area. Theother reportedly claimed he knew nothing about a casino visit.

The deputy asked to search the vehicle. When permission was refused,Kowalski called for a K-9 team headed by Sgt. Ricky Oubre, who quicklylocated the marijuana in three large duffle bags in the trunk. Also in thetrunk was a loaded Smith & Wesson .40-caliber semi-automatic and $500in cash.

Both have “fairly extensive” arrest records, Champagne said. Bond was setat $250,000 for Neuman and at $150,000 for Romsky by 29th Judicial District Judge Robert Chaisson.

Champagne added the prior record for marijuana seizure in the parish was 96 pounds in 1993 while he was an assistant district attorney. He hadsuccessfully prosecuted that case, the sheriff noted.

“Whatever we get off the streets, we’re happy,” Champagne concluded.

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