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Attached License Plate Leads To Arrests For Trafficking Drugs With Defaced Firearm

On the night of Friday, January 19, 2024, Trooper Hunter Ratelle was patrolling Route 91 northbound in Hatfield. Trooper Ratelle observed a maroon Hyundai SUV in the right-hand lane with a bent and obscured license plate that was unreadable. Trooper Ratelle attempted to conduct a traffic stop of the Hyundai, but the SUV only slowed, and traveled on for over half a mile before finally coming to rest on the side of Route 91.

Now stopped in the breakdown lane, Trooper Ratelle could now discern the obscured plate, and a records check of the registration plate showed that it belonged to a Toyota Prius. When Trooper Ratelle approached the Hyundai, he noted there were three people in the SUV. Trooper Ratelle spoke to the driver, who could not produce his license or a registration for the vehicle.

Having no license, the driver was removed from the SUV and seated in Trooper Ratelle’s cruiser. Now backed up by Troopers Angela Younger, Timothy Martin, John Sarnacki, and Joshua Wingler, the Troopers removed the remaining two passengers from the Hyundai so it could be towed. Troopers began an inventory of the vehicle’s contents and found a loaded Ruger 9mm handgun with a large capacity magazine containing 13 rounds under the front passenger seat. It was determined that none of the three occupants of the vehicle had a license to possess a firearm.

The two passengers, ASHLEY FLORENCE, 33, of Brattleboro Vt. and JOSHUA PENA, 27, of Springfield, were searched upon discovery of the loose firearm in the car. ASHLEY FLORENCE was found to have three knotted plastic baggies on her person containing 43 grams of crack cocaine.

JOSHUA PENA, after initially providing a false name, was found to have three active warrants for his arrest relating to drug and firearms charges. PENA was also found to be in possession of blue prescription pills and ID cards of persons not in the SUV. It was discovered that the reason the Hyundai took over a half of a mile to stop was that PENA was violently threatening the other passengers to not stop, and to hold illegal items for him.

FLORENCE and PENA were booked, photographed, and fingerprinted at the Northampton Barracks.

The driver of the Hyundai was summoned to court on several traffic related charges.

PENA was arraigned at Northampton District Court on charges of:

1.     Trafficking In Cocaine;

2.     Conspiracy To Violate Drug Law;

3.     Witness Intimidation;

4.     Firearm Violation With Prior Violent/Drug Crime;

5.     Carrying A Loaded Firearm;

6.     Possession Of Class E Substance;

7.     Possession Of Firearm During A Felony;

8.     Possession Of A Large Capacity Feeding Device;

9.     Possession Of A Firearm Without FID – Subsequent Offense;

10.   Possession Of A Firearm With a Defaced Serial Number;

11.   Possession Of A Firearm With Defaced Serial Number During A Felony;

12.   Failure To Wear Seatbelt; and

13.   Three Outstanding Warrants.

FLORENCE was arraigned at Northampton District Court on charges of:

1.       Trafficking In Cocaine; and

2.       Conspiracy To Violate Drug Law.


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