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Recent meth bust reveals Mexican cartels reach in Minnesota

February 21, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Recent meth bust reveals Mexican cartels reach in Minnesota

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A traffic stop last week in South Dakota disrupted the cross-country shipment of over 90 pounds of meth destined for Eagan, a discovery that led to federal charges this week against three suspects after the driver agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Additionally, in a separate case made public this week, federal authorities said the former owner of a Lake Street soccer shop was running a Minnesota-based operation of a Mexican cartel and selling large volumes of meth and cocaine.

A report by the Star-Tribune revealed a multiyear investigation into drug trafficking by “multifaceted and interrelated organizations” resulted in drug conspiracy charges against Edgar Martinez-Sanchez, aka ‘Compa’ or ‘Compita,’ and at least two of his runners.

Taken together, the cases emphasize the steadfast reach of Mexican cartels in Minnesota, where they continue to dispatch associates to distribute large amounts of meth and cocaine around the state.

The charges originated from distinct investigations by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. DEA and involved the seizures of hundreds of pounds of drugs and stacks of cash covered and coated with “mustard and other unknown substances,” documents filed in federal court indicated.

“Minnesota is unique in that we’re a destination market and a transit market to other regions,” Paul Kunze, the assistant special agent in charge for HSI in St. Paul, stated. In addition to selling drugs, he added that cartels “are using the region as a transportation point for drugs moving up into Canada and east in the U.S.”

Martinez was taken into custody on Tuesday after being indicted alongside Roberto Galicia-Maceda, a Richfield courier for his group. Both men are Mexican citizens illegally in the U.S.

Martinez’ lawyer said that his client intends on pleading not guilty at his arraignment on Friday in Minneapolis. He said Edgar Martinez had since closed his soccer shop and was working as a delivery driver and for an office-cleaning business when he was arrested.

Recent Meth busts have shed light on the expansive reach of Mexican drug cartel throughout the midwest

“He had two jobs — nothing like he’s accused of,” the attorney stated.

After their arrests, another member, Eliel Garcia, was charged with federal conspiracy to distribute meth and cocaine since 2014, when he was first discovered with 14 kilos of cocaine concealed in his car as he drove from Phoenix to Chicago.

HSI agents had followed Martinez since April 2016 as he directed an unnamed cartel’s Minnesota facet, which included relatives and other still-unidentified associates.

After carrying out hundreds of hours of surveillance and set up drug purchases from Martinez’ group, agents snagged approximately 35 pounds of meth, two pounds of cocaine, a firearm, and cash. Officers seized the meth from a co-defendant that later became an informant after a meetup in a St. Paul parking lot late last year.

One day after a federal grand jury returned a sealed nine-count indictment against Martinez and Galicia, Iowa State troopers seized Galicia’s vehicle with $391,050 in cash that were wrapped in plastic and dryer sheets and were greased before being encased in black electrical tape. Searches of the men’s residences around the Twin Cities turned up another $127,000, 10 pounds of meth, and five kilos of cocaine stored in a Honda that Galicia stopped using because, agents believe, he presumed he was being followed.

Three other men were charged Wednesday with conspiracy to distribute meth after the South Dakota State Patrol discovered 92 pounds of it in a car being driven by Abraham Suazo from California to Eagan, where he said he was to bring it to co-defendant Arturo Juarez-Madrigal.

Suazo agreed to wear a wire device and deliver a “substituted sham substance” staged as meth to his intended destination in Eagan. There, on February 9th, agents apprehended Suazo, Juarez-Madrigal and Luis Manual Sanchez-Lopez as the three began to take the fake meth from a compartment in Suazo’s vehicle.

Agents searching the Eagan residence revealed nearly ten additional pounds of meth and $118,500 in bundles “which were coated with mustard and other unknown substances,” the complaint stated.

The large seizures represent an upward tick in the amount of drugs agents say they are seizing, including a state record 140 pounds seized last May in Brooklyn Center.

Minnesota has long been both a market for meth, and a transshipment hub as the drug makes its way to Canada, Chicago or Milwaukee. Federal sentencing statistics show that nearly 70% of federal drug offenders sentenced in Minnesota in 2015 were charged in meth cases — which is double the national average.

Federal authorities have discovered links from Mexico’s Sinaloa and Beltran-Leyva cartels to Minnesota drug traffickers, maintaining cells believed to report to leaders in Mexico or through intermediaries.

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