NEWBURYPORT – A Winthrop man arrested in October with 10 pounds of marijuana and more than $10,000 in cash in his rental car avoided jail time Wednesday in Newburyport District Court, but lost the cash and drugs as a result. 

Joseph Anthony Stella, 25, admitted a judge could find him guilty of distributing a Class D drug, along with four motor vehicle-related offenses. Judge Allen Swan continued the drug distribution offense for three years and either filed or dismissed the driving charges. 

As part of Stella’s plea deal, he must pay a $300 fine and stay out of trouble with the law for three years. Swan was told by an Essex County prosecutor that the marijuana seized by state troopers in October was destroyed, while the cash was already ordered to be confiscated. 

In his report, state police Sgt. Kevin O’Neill wrote that he clocked Stella driving 94 mph on Interstate 95 south on Oct. 8 about 3:40 p.m. The posted speed limit is 65 mph.

After pulling over Stella, O’Neill walked by the trunk of the man’s rented Nissan Sentra and smelled a strong odor of fresh marijuana.

Stella appeared nervous as O’Neill talked to him. O’Neill asked for his driver’s license and registration. After handing over his license, Stella was unable to find the registration or the rental agreement. O’Neill radioed for a tow truck since Stella couldn’t find the necessary paperwork.

The trooper then asked Stella to get out of the car and walk to the trunk. O’Neill frisked him and found several keys and a jar containing a small amount of marijuana. O’Neill then opened the trunk with one of the keys and found a large duffel bag.

“I opened the bag and observed 10 large plastic bags of marijuana and a large amount of cash ($10,092) in separate bundles,” O’Neill wrote in his report.

Stella was handcuffed and taken to the police station for booking. There, Stella told O’Neill that he “really screwed up” and got tired of “seeing other drug dealers making a lot of money and he busted his (expletive) at UPS for only $9,000 a year,” O’Neill wrote in his report.

Noticing Stella’s statement, Swan told Stella that it would be better for him to work for UPS than dealing drugs. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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