Last summer, postal inspectors flagged a suspicious package heading for an apartment building in south Minneapolis.

Its contents: 13.5 pounds of meth.

The box was intended for Victor Damien Armenta, according to charges of felony drug possession with intent to distribute filed in U.S. District Court this week. Police arrested Armenta after setting up a sting to see who would pick up the parcel, which was addressed to an alias.

Investigators created a decoy by placing about 100 grams of meth over 13 pounds of a mixture meant to imitate the drug in a package. An undercover postal inspector, acting as a mail delivery person, dropped the box off at the apartment, near S. Park Avenue and E. Lake Street on June 12, according to charges.

Law enforcement staked out at the apartment and saw Armenta pick up the box and bring it inside. Opening the package, Armenta set off a secret alarm that alerted the officers, who raided the apartment and found the decoy hidden in a closet, charges say.

The bust, which amounts to about 6 kilograms, comes amid a sustained surge in meth in Minnesota in recent years, most of it coming from Central and South American cartels that have identified the Twin Cities as a Midwest distribution hub. The state's multijurisdictional Violent Crime Enforcement Teams, which target drug and gang crime, impounded 1,706 pounds of meth in 2019, a 49% increase from 2018 and a 625% rise over the past five years, according to state Department of Public Safety data released last year. The 2020 data has not yet been released.

Last summer, the rise in meth cases prompted a visit from White House drug czar Jim Carroll to meet with recovery workers in St. Paul who have been on the front lines of helping combat addiction ravaging the state.

As the U.S. government has increased security at the southern border, Carroll said cartels have shifted strategy to flood the U.S.-Canadian borders. As a result, he said, Border Patrol ports in Buffalo, N.Y., saw a 4,000% increase from March 21 to June 14 last year compared with the same time in 2019.

Armenta's lawyer declined to comment on the case at this time.

Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036