HJ/EDMay 15, 2006

Tips from public lead to two major drug busts in area

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

Tips from the public were a key element in two significant area drug busts, according to Carver County Sheriff Byron (Bud) Olson.

Those arrested are believed to have been responsible for distributing meth across a large area spanning nine counties.

During a meeting of law enforcement officials at the Carver County Justice Center Wednesday, Olson announced the conclusion of two investigations completed by the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force (SWMDTF), with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in Carver, Scott, Sibley, Le Sueur, McLeod, Blue Earth, Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties, and the Minnesota State Patrol.

The first case involved a two-month investigation that resulted in the arrest of 14 people for felony-level violations including sale, possession, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

The task force recovered more than 310 grams (two-thirds of a pound) of methamphetamine and a small amount of cocaine, with a street value of $46,000.

The task force also seized $51,000 in cash, one motor vehicle, and a house in Green Isle, and froze assets in one bank account.

Investigators believe that the individuals arrested were responsible for distributing more than 16 pounds of meth between December 2005 and March 2006. The estimated street value of these drugs distributed in local communities is more than $1 million.

A series of controlled buys, information from a confidential informant, and search warrants in three counties led investigators to Hector and Alfredo Pedraza.

Court documents show that March 21, Hector Pedraza and his brother, Alfredo Pedraza, were arrested in Norwood Young America.

Investigators seized more than 220 grams of methamphetamine at the time of the arrest.

A search of Pedraza’s residence at 125 North Lane in Green Isle netted a small amount of cocaine and $47,000 in cash.

Investigators also seized Pedraza’s vehicle and residence, and froze assets in one bank account.

The arrests in this case were the result of an investigation conducted by the SWMDTF, assisted by law enforcement agencies from Carver, Scott, Sibley, Le Sueur, McLeod, and Blue Earth counties, and the Minnesota State Patrol.

A second case, that began with the investigation of drug activity in Carver County, resulted in the arrest of six people for felony level violations.

The investigation was conducted by the SWMDTF, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Dakota counties during the last two weeks of April.

On April 18, members of the SWMDTF, along with a Minneapolis narcotics unit and the Hennepin County Drug Task Force, executed a search warrant on 34th Avenue in Minneapolis.

One man was arrested and charged with first degree possession of a controlled substance.

Officers seized more than a quarter pound of methamphetamine, and $8,323 in cash.

On April 25, members of the SWMDTF, along with St. Paul Police, executed a search warrant on Hoyt Avenue in St. Paul.

One man and one woman were arrested and charged with second degree sale and possession of a controlled substance.

Officers seized more than 22 grams of methamphetamine, and $26,145 in cash.

On April 26, members of the SWMDTF, along with the Dakota County Drug Task Force and Burnsville Police, searched a motor vehicle, a hotel room, and a residence in Burnsville.

Officers seized more than 4.5 pounds of cocaine, and $1,948 in cash.

Officers arrested Kristian Acusta, 27, of Chihuahua, Mexico; Juan Ruiz, 37, of Denver, and Rogue Martinez, 27, of Burnsville. All three were charged with felony level crimes for possession of controlled substances.

During Wednesday’s meeting, law enforcement officials said that these cases illustrate the importance of the drug task force, which can work across jurisdictional boundaries.

The drug trade is extremely mobile, and drugs found in one area often lead to individuals in other cities or counties. The task force provides specialized officers, and allows departments to work together and share resources to help combat these issues, according to law enforcement officials.

Identification is difficult in drug cases. Suspects often use multiple aliases and have false IDs. One of those arrested had 40 different aliases, Carver County Chief Deputy Bob VanDenBroeke commented.

The four-member SWMDTF investigated 203 cases and made 171 arrests in the 2005, and is on pace to do even more this year. A fifth agent will be added in June.

Olson also pointed out that both of these cases started with tips from the public, and said public input is critical to the success of law enforcement, particularly in drug-related cases.

Agents from the SWMDTF are continuing to investigate these cases, and anyone with information on these cases, or other drug-related matters, is encouraged to call the task force at (952) 361-6900.


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