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Buffalo-area couple jailed after pound of pot found during traffic stop in Massena

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MASSENA - A Buffalo-area couple were jailed Friday morning after 1.1 pounds of marijuana were located in their vehicle during a traffic stop early Saturday morning in the village of Massena.

Village police charged James G. (Jamie) Spotted Elk Jr., 40, of 2388 Upper Mountain Road, Sanborn, and Nancy L. Best, 30, of 724 Division Ave., Apt. 1, Niagara Falls, with second-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Best was also charged with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

U.S. Border Patrol agents had initiated the traffic stop on Route 37 at the Route 420 intersection in the village of Massena. Agents said they had seen the rental vehicle being operated by Best leave an area in Akwesasne where they had observed suspicious behavior involving a snowmobile a short time earlier. Spotted Elk initially told agents he had been visiting a cousin in the prison in Chateaugay but later admitted he been on the reservation shortly before the 1:20 a.m. traffic stop in Massena.

Agents said during the traffic stop they noticed Spotted Elk was leaning way back in the passenger seat of the 2012 Ford Fusion, and he told officers he was too tired to move his seat back up. They said a Border Patrol K-9 unit responded to the traffic stop, and a plastic bag containing 1.1 pounds of marijuana was located on the floor on the passenger side of the back seat. Agents turned the case over to Massena Village Police.

Best was arraigned by Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson and sent to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility with bail set at $10,000 cash or $20,000.

Spotted Elk is being held at the county jail with no bail set. The local justice was unable to set bail since Spotted Elk has two prior felony convictions.

He was sentenced to one to three years in state prison in August 1996 for a second-degree attempted criminal mischief conviction and two to four years in state prison in February 1999 for a criminally negligent homicide conviction, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Services website.

According to newspaper reports from the time, Spotted Elk had initially been charged with manslaughter following the May 2, 1998 shooting death of Dustan Printup, 19, in a vehicle on Mount Hope Road on the Tuscarora Reservation. Spotted Elk was reportedly struggling for the weapon with another person in the vehicle when the weapon fired.

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