Anoka County jurors have convicted a Twin Cities man of possessing nearly 77,000 THC vape cartridges confiscated from a Coon Rapids home in what authorities at the time called the largest seizure of its kind in Minnesota history.
Valentin V. Andonii, 25, of Champlin was found guilty Friday in Anoka County District Court of all drug-related counts in connection with the seizure of the 76,972 cartridges from a condominium in the 3600 block of Coon Rapids Boulevard.
Altogether, the cartridges reportedly held more than 185 pounds of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The cartridges' packages were illustrated with younger users in mind. Some sported famous cartoon characters or themes of sweet flavors.
Unlike legally purchased medical marijuana products that are tested by state regulators, health experts said, the ingredients in illicit vape cartridges aren't always clear.
One of the charges alleged that Andonii possessed a controlled substance without official labeling that showed the proper tax was paid on the items. That charge put the tax bill owed to Minnesota at more than $3 million.
Andonii remained jailed without bail until sentencing March 25.
Defense attorney Michael Brandt said Friday that he will ask Judge Melissa Saterbak to spare his client prison time and sentence him to probation, which would be a downward departure from state sentencing guidelines.
The County Attorney's Office said that the presumptive term for Andonii would be from 4 2⁄3 to about 6 1⁄4 years.
"One of the things I've been arguing in this case is that by the time he's done with his sentence, this stuff is probably going to be legal in Minnesota," Brandt said. "This is part of our frustration here."
Brandt appeared pragmatic about Andonii's chances of avoiding prison. "The pushback I will probably get is the sheer volume [of drugs] in this case," he said.
- In September 2019, authorities seized nearly 29,000 vape cartridges from a Cadillac Escalade and 30,000 more in a garage next to the SUV, according to the criminal complaint. They also seized nearly $145,000 from the condo and $23,800 in counterfeit currency.
"The facts of this case make clear that, regardless of the future of criminal laws regarding marijuana and THC," prosecutor Paul Ostrow said Monday in a statement, "public safety and public health must be protected through aggressive regulation and criminal penalties for those who would endanger the community by recklessly adding chemicals or additives that may cause illness or death."
At the time he was charged, Andonii was on probation for a felony drug conviction. In addition, he has a pending felony case from 2018 when he was accused of fleeing a state trooper after he was stopped on suspicion of drunken driving.