MPD Lt. Mike Fisher with a large cache of confiscated marijuana in 1983. MIKE ZERBY/Star Tribun
A cache of marijuana with a street value of more than $450,000 was seized Wednesday night by local police and federal agents, hidden inside a minivan that arrived in Minneapolis from the West Coast on the back of a car-carrier truck, authorities said.
The 47 kilograms, or about 105 pounds, of pot were bound for the city’s North Side, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Hennepin County District Court.
A probable cause statement said that based on the arresting officer’s “training and experience,” coordinating a “cross-country transport” of such a large quantity of drugs was "inconsistent with personal use, and indicates intent to sell.” Police estimated the shipment would have fetched more than $450,000 on the streets.
A call to the Drug Enforcement Agency's Minneapolis office wasn't returned on Friday.
The shipment, packaged in 500-gram bricks and stashed inside large plastic storage bins, was confiscated from a green Dodge Caravan van, which had made the approximately 2,000-mile journey from California strapped atop a car-carrier, the complaint said.
Authorities, who had been tracking the truck since it left the West Coast, followed it to a “delivery destination” near the corner of Dowling Avenue and Humboldt Avenue in north Minneapolis, officials said. There, they saw its driver “meet with an individual who signed some paperwork and took possession of the vehicle's keys," the complaint said, referring to the drug-laden van.
Shortly afterward, federal agents and MPD officers swarmed the scene of the drop-off, and arrested three men who were seen unloading the van from the carrier, officials said.
Witnesses reported hearing the sounds of explosions caused by flash-bang grenades about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, as authorities closed in on the suspects.
One of the men, Nicholas Rios, 23, has been charged with second-degree sale of marijuana exceeding 25 kilos, among other charges, after police say he was arrested while transporting nearly 50 kilograms of marijuana, with a street value of more than $450,000. The Illinois man, who is being held on $100,000 bail, also faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, third-degree possession of marijuana exceeding 10 kilos and fifth-degree sale of marijuana mixture.
Rios is expected to appear in court Monday afternoon.
According to prosecutors, he has a prior conviction in Illinois for manufacturing or distributing marijuana.
For decades, north Minneapolis has been flooded with drugs smuggled in from the western U.S. and Mexico and distributed by local gangs. Authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of pot and heroin into the area, but some residents say that open-air drug deals occur with a regularity not seen since the early 1990s.