ELKTON — A man caught with 141 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $200,000 during an Interstate 95 traffic stop near North East in January 2020 is facing up to 25 years in prison, after accepting a plea deal, according to Cecil County Circuit Court records.
The defendant, Jiating Weng, 25, of College Park, pleaded guilty to importing marijuana into the state during a courtroom hearing of Tuesday, court records show. Retired Cecil County Circuit Court Judge V. Micheal Whelan accepted Weng’s guilty plea.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 19.
Weng’s co-defendant — Renzhi Wang, 23, of Germantown — received a one-year jail term on May 10 after he, too, pleaded guilty to importing marijuana into the state, as part of a plea agreement.
Retired Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Bowman imposed a five-year sentence on Wang and then suspended four years of that penalty. The judge ordered Wang to serve three years of supervised probation, after completing his one-year jail term.
Maryland State Police Cpl. Erik McNeely arrested Weng and Wang on Jan. 8, 2020, after stopping their Dodge Grand Caravan in the southbound lane of Interstate 95, south of North East, for speeding, police reported. Wang was driving the vehicle, which had Florida license plates, and Weng was his front-seat passenger, police noted.
McNeely dispatched an MSP K9 Unit after observing “indicators of criminal activity,” court records show. Law enforcement officers typically do not specify indicators of criminal activity publicly, to avoid compromising future investigations.
The specially-trained scent dog alerted to the presence of illegal drugs while performing a sniff scan outside the vehicle, police reported.
That, in turn, led to a probable-cause vehicle search in which investigators found four large black suitcases containing heat-sealed bags, police said. Those heat-sealed bags held a total of 141 pounds – or 64 kilos – of marijuana, police added.
“During the traffic stop, Wang advised they were traveling from New York. Based on the sheer weight and method of packaging the marijuana is indicative of the sale and distribution of (drugs). Estimated street value of the marijuana is approximately $211,500,” McNeely outlined in his statement of probable cause.
Medical marijuana is legal in Maryland but the state failed to enact a recreational legalization measure this year even as Virginia and New York joined the cast of states and jurisdictions with legalized cannabis including New Jersey and the District of Columbia.