The 21-year-old had been accused of intending to sell the drug stash. His lawyer said it belonged to a roommate.
The attorneys for Cesar Fletes-Ortiz, 21, contended during the trial that the 16 to 18 pounds of meth actually belonged to a housemate who’d earlier been caught selling some to an undercover agent and then absconded.
It was the largest methamphetamine seizure ever by the Anoka-Hennepin drug task force, with a street value of up to $1 million. The raid came last summer amid a metro resurgence of the highly addictive stimulant.
“This was a difficult case and we pursued it vigorously,” said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. “While we wanted a different outcome in the trial, 18 pounds of methamphetamine were removed from the streets of Anoka County.”
Assistant Anoka County Paul Ostrow had said that Fletes-Ortiz might not have “exclusively” possessed the drugs but that he knew they were in his home and intended to sell them.
“The roommate threw my client under the bus, and essentially tried to blame everything on my client,” said F. Clayton Tyler, who with associate Karen Mohrlant defended Fletes-Ortiz. “My client’s just a hardworking young man who happened to live with this guy.”
The defendant’s roommate did not testify during the trial. “I don’t think they know where to find him,” Tyler said.
No information was immediately available on whether prosecutors will charge the roommate, but Tyler said he’d expect that they would because the man had sold about 3.5 ounces of meth to an narcotics officer, aside from “a whole lot of meth” found in the house.
Authorities raided the Anoka house on Aug. 22 and found a $5 bill in Fletes-Ortiz’s bedroom that was coated with a white substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.
In the lower level, where Tyler said the housemate lived, officers found a gun safe that contained two black garbage bags containing separate containers of meth. The total meth amount seized was actually about 16 pounds, Tyler said, but containers pushed the weight to 18.5 pounds.
Authorities also seized $10,000 in cash and three guns.
Tyler said his client was a laborer who has returned to working about 50 to 60 hours a week, as he was before his arrest.
It took nearly two months for Tyler to get Fletes-Ortiz’s $2 million bail lowered so he could post bond and get out of the Anoka County jail.
“He’s a nice young man,” Tyler said. “He and his whole family are just pleased with the outcome, and he’s happy to have his life back.”
Joy Powell • 612-673-7750
David Chanen • 612-673-4465