HANCOCK COUNTY — A man without an official address anywhere in the state was arrested for a felony drug crime late last week. An alert law enforcement official saw the man take part in what officials believe was an illegal drug purchase and later found the man to be in possession of illegal narcotic drugs.
Pankaj Sharma, 33, was arrested and charged with a Level 3 felony count of possession of a narcotic drug from an incident on May 12. The crime carries up to 16 years in prison.
Sharma made his initial appearance in Hancock County Superior Court 1 on Monday, where Judge D.J. Davis entered a not guilty plea on Sharma’s behalf, set a $10,000 cash bond and appointed a public defender.
According to a probable cause affidavit, an official from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department was observing vehicles at the Speedway gas station, 2668 North 600W, May 12 when an officer observed a male passenger of a truck exit the truck and start talking with a person in another vehicle.
The officer stated the male passenger, later identified as Sharma handed the person in the other vehicle what looked like at least a $100 bill in exchange for a bag. Sharma then took the bag back to the truck he was riding in, the report stated.
When the truck Sharma was a passenger in left the gas station, the officer followed and ran the plates. The return indicated the truck had expired plates, the affidavit said. After activating police lights and the siren, the official observed Sharma take the bag from the passenger seat area where he was sitting and place the bag in the back seat.
The officer noted that he could see Sharma lift out of the seat, and turn around to the back seat area where it appeared he was reaching under the back seat.
“These furtive movements were inconsistent with behavior of passengers on a typical traffic stop,” the officer said in the report.
After getting consent to search the truck, officials found a white bag containing what they identified through training and experience as opium poppy flowers, the affidavit said. The suspected poppy flowers were estimated to weigh well over 28 grams, the report stated.
Sharma is due back in court at the end of the month for a pretrial conference. He is however no longer listed as an inmate in the county jail. The driver of the vehicle was arrested at the time of the incident on May 12, but there are no charges pending against him to date, court documents show.