UND student's death linked to potent drug shipped online
A month after his death, an autopsy report shows that the University of North Dakota student found unresponsive in a home near campus April 4 died from an overdose of powdered fentanyl. Alex Davis, 22, of West St. Paul, is at least the third person in the Grand Forks area whose death is linked to the powerful synthetic drug. Grand Forks police have issued multiple public warnings about the drug, which authorities say is 100 times stronger than morphine. In one online video, Cpl. Justin Holweger warns that fentanyl orders are being shipped through the Internet, and users have no clue as to the purity or content of caustic additives. "There is no safe way to ingest these synthetic compounds," he said.
Body could be Le Sueur woman
A body found Wednesday afternoon in the Minnesota River is believed to be that of Moriah L. Zwart, a 20-year-old Le Sueur woman missing since May 1. Le Sueur County Sheriff Dave Tietz said searchers were "quite confident" that they found Zwart, based on clothing and other features. Tietz said official identification will come from the Ramsey County medical examiner's office. The body was found about 2 ½ miles north of the sandbar where Zwart was last seen by a friend who was camping there with her. Foul play is not suspected, Tietz said.
St. Paul settles brutality case
The St. Paul City Council approved Wednesday a $75,000 settlement with a man who charged police with beating him up and violating his constitutional rights in an incident two years ago. Ross Berke, 43, alleged in a federal lawsuit that three St. Paul officers arrested him at his home for making terroristic threats against a restaurant worker, kicking and punching him after knocking him to the floor. He said police handcuffed him, sprayed him with an aerosol and took him to jail without a warrant. In the end, Berke was charged only with possession of a firearm by a user of controlled substances, a gross misdemeanor count that was dismissed. But the episode, according to his suit, left Berke with "lasting and permanent harm to both his psyche as well as his physical person," including cyclical vomiting, damage to his nervous system and numerous wounds. In March 2013, Berke mistakenly left a $100 bill rather than a $20 for a tip at the Chatterbox Pub. After he recovered his change, he sent a text message to a Chatterbox employee that was shown a few days later to three officers eating at the pub — Jonathan Gliske, Chris Kasal and Tom Menton. The officers went to his house to arrest him, allegedly telling him, "We're friends of the Chatterbox!"The settlement doesn't mean that the city admits liability in the case.
Chaska sues to recover city funds
The city of Chaska and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust have filed a lawsuit in Scott County District Court to recover more than $100,000 they say was taken by a former city employee. The suit says that Lois Wolters, a former accounting clerk, stole $108,686 between 2001 and 2010. The thefts were discovered by the city in 2013 after Wolters resigned. The suit seeks $108,686 in damages, plus unspecified punitive damages and costs resulting from the thefts.
Man gets 27 months in coin fraud
A New York coin dealer who cheated an elderly man from small-town Minnesota and others out of life savings totaling more than a quarter-million dollars is heading to prison for more than two years. Chrysanthos Nicholas, 55, was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 27 months in prison and ordered to make restitution of nearly $250,000. Nicholas pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud. More than half of the amount came from a man in the central Minnesota town of Merrifield.
Worker caught in forgery sting
A sting captured a longtime St. Paul city employee whose co-workers grew suspicious that she was selling false insurance cards at her workplace. Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) employee Natasha Howard, 36, was captured on hidden camera Tuesday selling a fake insurance card to an undercover agent with the Minnesota Department of Commerce Fraud Bureau, according to charges filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court. Howard, of St. Paul, is charged with two counts of aggravated forgery. "Her co-workers became suspicious when people would ask for Howard by name or stand in a longer line just to see Howard," the complaint said.