Local man facing federal drug charges
A Donnelly man who was facing charges for cocaine distribution in Stevens County District Court is among 26 people under federal indictment after authorities cracked a cocaine pipeline between Texas and Minnesota.
Refugio (Kookie) Hernandez Muniz, 51, was charged in March with first-degree felony sale of 10 grams or more of cocaine within a 90-day period. Muniz was facing penalties of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of $1 million.
But Stevens County Attorney Charles Glasrud said Thursday that he dropped charges against Muniz after receiving word of the federal indictment against him.
Muniz was arrested locally on Feb. 4, as was Leonard James Larson, 50, of Morris, who is charged with fifth-degree possession of cocaine. Larson faces penalties of five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
About the same time, Jose DeJesus Rangel Rodriguez, 20, of Morris, was arrested on drug charges and in late March pled guilty to third degree controlled substance crime in return for a dismissal of a second degree charge of selling three grams or more of cocaine in October 2008. Rodriguez remains in custody pending sentencing.
Neither Larson nor Rangel were among the 26 people being indicted in the Texas-Minnesota pipeline case.
According to a report in Thursday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, Muniz was connected to a high-volume cocaine pipeline between Texas and Minnesota, with ties to one of Mexico's most violent crime syndicates.
The Star Tribune reported that the pipeline was severed in early morning raids Wednesday by federal agents, authorities said.
Federal indictments charging 26 people in Minnesota and south Texas with drug trafficking were unsealed Wednesday, completing a yearlong investigation into an organization run by a mother and her three sons, according to the Star Tribune report.
Based in and around McAllen, Texas, they allegedly sent couriers to deliver 5 to 15 kilos of uncut cocaine a month into Minnesota over the past four years -- and still couldn't keep up with Minnesota's demand for the drug, authorities said. Each kilo sold for between $25,000 and $35,000, according to authorities cited in the Star Tribune story.
The bust was significant because it stopped high-level traffickers with direct connections to Mexico's Gulf Cartel, authorities said. But they acknowledged that it will only temporarily disrupt the flow of drugs into Minnesota. Simultaneous raids were conducted Wednesday morning in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park in the metro area, in St. Cloud, Cold Spring and St. Wendel Township in central Minnesota, and in Texas, the Star Tribune reported.