A more-than-year-long investigation led by Minneapolis police resulted Thursday in the bust of a local heroin ring with ties to Mexico.
Thirteen people in total were involved in the bust, according to Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer. Seven people were arrested Thursday and one the night before during a traffic stop. Three others were already in custody for other offenses. Two were still on the loose as of Thursday night.
Many of those arrested were related to each other and members of Gangster Disciples, Palmer said. The group was being supplied by a Mexican crime organization out of Chicago, he said. The heroin they were selling was determined to be 70 to 90 percent pure compared to most heroin bought on the street, which is typically only 30 to 50 percent pure, Palmer said. Most new users wouldn't be able to tolerate that level of purity, he explained.
During the sting, police recovered $11,000, two guns, several vehicles and about 3 ounces of gray powdered heroin, which was worth $17,000 and equal to about 800 hits.
"That's a big number of overdoses we prevented and a big number of lives we saved," Palmer said.
The 15-month investigation was led by the Fifth Precinct community response team, which worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration task force. During the investigation, undercover officers purchased heroin from dealers about 20 times, Palmer said. The group was selling much of the heroin out of vehicles, a practice called "mobile dealing."
Southwest Minneapolis' Fifth Precinct has been plagued by heroin overdoses, Palmer said. The work of the community response team to interview users and look for heroin-related incidents, along with tips from the public to report suspicious vehicles, led to the heroin bust.
"Taking this crew out, hopefully we'll be able to save lives," he said.
Those in custody Thursday were charged with either first-degree sale of controlled substance, first-degree conspiracy to distribute or first degree aiding and abetting the distribution of controlled substances.
In Minneapolis, there have been 10 overdose deaths related to heroin so far this year. According to reports, deaths caused heroin overdoses in Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka counties nearly tripled in 2011 compared to the year before. Test results have shown that heroin purchased in the Twin Cities is 93.5 percent pure -- the highest potency in the country.
Anyone with information is asked to call 612-673-5705.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495