Accused heroin dealer fails to appear in court after state returns his passport

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Accused New London heroin dealer Jacob Mena, who posted a $75,000 surety bond following his arrest in February and received his passport back from court officials, missed his second court date in a row Monday.

Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein ordered him rearrested and set a new bond of $75,000 cash.

Shawn Startz, the Waterford bail bondsman who helped Mena secure a surety bond issued by the International Fidelity Insurance Co., said Mena's sister told him Mena went on vacation in the Dominican Republic and was involved in a car accident. Mena told family members he would be returning to New London on April 20, Startz said, but the family members said Mena has not returned.

"I don't know where he is," said his attorney, Peter Catania.

New London police charged Mena on Feb. 24 with possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a housing project, operating a drug factory, possession of drug paraphernalia and interfering with a search warrant. Police said they seized 64 grams of heroin from the Crystal Avenue apartment of Mena's girlfriend.

Police had seized Mena's passport following his arrest, but at his request, Catania arranged for court officials to release it back to him.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Paul J. Narducci, who is prosecuting the case, could not be reached to comment Monday. New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said he was not familiar with the specifics of the case.

When he first failed to appear in court on April 11, Judge Strackbein ordered the bail commissioner's office to send Mena a letter notifying him of the missed court date. The letter from the bail commissioner's office, often a first step when a defendant fails to attend court on the scheduled date, informs the person of his new court date and warns that if he does not show up, his bond will be forfeited and the court will issue a warrant for failure to appear in court.

Startz, the bondsman, said he was not sure why the court released Mena's passport. He said he contacted Mena's sister, Selina Mena, who had cosigned for the bond with another person, after Mena first missed his court date. 

"I said, 'I tried to call your brother's phone, and it's not accepting phone calls,'' Startz said. "I said, 'Where is he?' She said, 'He left.' She said he went on vacation." 

Mena's father lives in the Dominican Republic, according to Startz.

 The bail bondsman said Mena's sister and a friend had paid a $5,400 fee to secure the bond. He said the state will give him six months to locate the defendant before the bond is forfeited, but that he is not allowed to look for him outside of the United States.

If the bond is forfeited, the insurers will contact Mena's sister and an unidentified man who co-signed the bond and sue them, Startz said.

"I'm hoping he'll show up at his sister's house," Startz said.

Following his arrest, Mena's girlfriend called The Day to say that Mena was not living at the apartment in the Thames River Housing complex where police seized the heroin. 

Mena listed 175 Hawthorne Drive, New London, as his address on his bond application, according to Startz.

k.florin@theday.com

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