Busted: 11 arrested in drug trafficking sting
Goodhue County authorities said they threw a dent into the local cocaine trade late last week in a series of arrests that followed a two-month investigation.
The sting included the arrest of seven men charged with first-degree drug sales, and the seizure of $21,000 intended to buy cocaine.
"I don't care if you're a metro task force or not," Goodhue County Chief Deputy Scott McNurlin said. "That's a huge deal right there."
The busts - made between Thursday and Saturday - were conducted as a joint operation between the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office, Red Wing police and the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force. In all, 11 people were arrested, including four suspected illegal aliens during a bust Friday in Cannon Falls.
With the help of confidential informants, sheriff's drug investigators began mapping out the case in May, after establishing controlled buys with dealers including their main target, Jorge Dumer Zazueta, 35, Red Wing.
Zazueta, who was arrested at gunpoint Thursday, is accused of selling cocaine to an informant on numerous occasions around Red Wing. He was lured Thursday to Red Wing by an informant who purported to sell Zazueta guns in exchange for cash and cocaine.
"He was definitely supplying a lot of people in Goodhue County with cocaine," said Paul Gielau, a drug investigator for the sheriff's office.
Zazueta, who investigators said is an illegal alien, allegedly made claims that he was a major cocaine supplier to Hispanics in Goodhue County.
"Two to 3 ounces a week just filters out through the county," said Goodhue County sheriff's drug investigator Jonathan Huneke.
Investigators said informants led them to other dealers in the county, including suspects from St. Paul.
Friday's arrests began just after 7 a.m. when task force members executed a search warrant at 825 Bush St. and arrested resident George Harris, 25. He had allegedly sold the drug Ecstasy to an informant the day before. Harris faces third-degree drug charges.
At noon Friday, task force members reassembled in Cannon Falls, where members from the Twin Cities group were arrested at McDonald's near Highway 52 after an informant led them there under the illusion they would buy a kilogram of cocaine for $21,000.
Arrested on the scene without incident were Jose Mancia Rivera, 26, Jesus Ochoa, 25, Esteban Medrano, 34, and Morena Hernandez, 25. All four face first-degree felony drug charges.
McNurlin called the $21,000 seizure "astounding."
Later that afternoon, officers arrested Red Wing resident Angel Luis Miranda, 45, during a traffic stop. According to a criminal complaint, he completed numerous cocaine deals with an informant.
Miranda, who was out on bail at the time of the arrest, also faces unrelated aggravated assault robbery from a June incident in Featherstone Township.
While Miranda was being arrested Friday, Red Wing police and task force members arrested Red Wing resident Donte Lawton, 20, following another informant-related drug buy. Lawton faces first-degree drug sales charges for allegedly selling fake cocaine.
Another suspected dealer, Louis Harris, 27, Red Wing, was arrested by Huneke, who saw him on foot in Red Wing Friday. Harris, accused of selling cocaine, also faces first-degree drug charges.
A final bust, originally scheduled to go down Friday, occurred Saturday evening when an informant told Gielau that a dealer would be in Cannon Falls within a half hour. The suspect, who had already made a sale to the informant during a controlled buy, was arrested without incident. That man, Anwar Mohamed, 27, Minneapolis, faces second-degree cocaine-sale charges.
The sting stems the flow of cocaine into the county - if only temporarily - the investigators said.
"We've at least disrupted a network," Huneke said. "If we can at least diminish the flow, I think that's satisfying for everyone."
McNurlin said the volume of cocaine moving through the various targets ramped up the significance. In almost all cases, it took just over a week for controlled buys to reach first-degree levels.
"That's alarming to me - to be able to order up that much (in that amount of time)," McNurlin said. "That tells me the industry is alive and well. It ratifies the fact that by no means are we getting very much