Sahirah Rasul's bus trip from Brooklyn to Burlington didn't go as planned. Surprise drug busts on the Megabus landed the 17-year-old behind bars.
"She's charged with extremely serious offenses," said Mary Morrissey, the deputy state's attorney for Chittenden County. "The heroin trafficking alone carries a 30-year maximum penalty."
Police say they caught Rasul getting off the bus carrying a cereal box stuffed with heroin and crack cocaine. They say she's one of three New York City passengers arrested this week for using the bargain bus company to transport drugs.
"Thousands and thousands of dollars of drugs were confiscated this week," Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan said.
For several months authorities suspected the bus was being used to traffic drugs. So officers were sent to a drop off zone on the University of Vermont's campus to question suspicious passengers.
Police arrested Shirley Colon, 21, for cocaine and marijuana possession after she let police search her duffle bag. Another passenger, Dasean Nisbett, 21, was caught carrying 1,000 oxycodone pills hidden in the groin area of his pants. All three suspects denied the charges in court. Police say they confiscated $70,000 in drugs bound for other Vermont cities, not UVM.
"It's serious. These are all dangerous just alone. And this combination and this volume of drugs coming into Vermont, in particular Chittenden County, is a serious public safety problem," UVM Police Chief Lianne Tuomey said.
Donovan says local, state and federal authorities are partnering to stomp out the glut of drugs rolling into Vermont, but says deeply discounted transportation is making it tough.
"This is an easy and cheap way to move drugs up into Vermont," Donovan said. "So, it's good for business on their end."
He says the courts have to send a message that Vermont is not an easy target for drug traffickers.
"You can't bring that amount of drugs into Vermont and not expect to go to jail," Donovan said.
Despite serious drug charges and no ties to Vermont, Judge Kevin Griffin set bail for Colon and Nesbitt at $1,000. Prosecutors demanded $25,000 in Rasul's case, but the judge settled on $10,000. She has no previous criminal record.
"Really the only thing she has at this point facing her in Vermont is jail and I don't think she'll come back for that," Morrissey said.
"We want to make sure that we send the message that we hold people accountable. Of course to hold people accountable they have to show up in court," Donovan said.
Prosecutors hope the real deterrent will come on sentencing day.
Police say there could be more arrests as their investigation continues. We reached out to Megabus for comment, we had not heard back from the company when this article was published.