ROCHELLE PARK, N.J. -- A driver stopped by a Rochelle Park police officer for using his cellphone had catnip that he apparently tried to pass off as pot stashed in a local hotel room, along with more than $4,500 in alleged drug proceeds in his car, authorities said Thursday.
Patrolman Nick Mercoun spotted the silver Acura exiting a Passaic Street business on Wednesday, Detective Sgt. James M. DePreta told Daily Voice.
The driver, 33-year-old Felice Black of Paterson, "abruptly changed directions" after the officer noticed him talking on a hand-held cellphone, DePreta said.
During the subsequent stop, Mercoun smelled raw marijuana, he said.
A search of the car turned up $4,521 "in small denominations consistent with narcotics trafficking," DePreta said.
Police obtained a warrant to search a hotel room where Black was staying -- and found "several hundred plastic baggies commonly used to package marijuana for sale," the sergeant said.
They also found the cat nip, which some substitute for marijuana because of chemical qualities that produce a high.
Black was with possession of property derived from criminal activity, possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to distribute drugs, and possession of imitation drugs with the intent to distribute them.
Police seized the cash for forfeiture purposes and released Black under New Jersey's 2017 bail reform law.