More than 60 pounds of methamphetamine, other illicit drugs, loaded guns and wads of cash were seized in a high-rise apartment in downtown Minneapolis, and two men have been charged in connection with the haul.
Gonzalo Jiminez-Paz Jr. and Rey David Luna-Santillanes, both 22 and from Minneapolis, were charged Monday with conspiracy to distribute meth. They remain jailed ahead of a federal court date in Minneapolis on Thursday.
The seizure Saturday by law enforcement agents occurred in an eighth-floor residence overlooking the Mississippi River in the Churchill Apartments, on Marquette Avenue across the street from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration offices.
The 31-story Churchill bills itself as “an elite address for those with a taste for luxury.” The one-bedroom apartment where the raid occurred rents for about $1,550 a month.
Operators of the Churchill e-mailed the building’s hundreds of residents about the arrests, explaining that the suspects lived in an apartment being leased to someone else who passed a criminal-background check and “met all other requirements of residency. The two individuals arrested were not residents of our community.”
Law enforcement officers recovered roughly 64 pounds of meth, “a large sum of U.S. currency,” 3 pounds of heroin, a bag of unidentified blue pills, two loaded handguns, dozens of rounds of ammunition, and 11 cellphones, according to the criminal complaint and a search warrant inventory filed in court.
The meth was in two suitcases in a closet, the heroin was in a shoe box, and the cash was in a kitchen cupboard, the complaint continued. One of the guns was tucked under a mattress and the other in a closet.
Officers arrested Jiminez-Paz and Luna-Santillanes inside the apartment, the charges said.
A confidential informant who cooperated with authorities in the case described Jiminez-Paz as being “part of a Mexican-based drug-trafficking organization that is distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in Minnesota,” said a search warrant affidavit filed last month in Hennepin County District Court.
The Twin Cities has become a major market in the United States for meth distribution. Many of those caught supplying Minnesota’s meth have had direct ties to major, internationally known drug cartels in southern Mexico.
Less than a week before the raid, investigators received “reliable information” from the informant that Jiminez-Paz intended to travel to California to coordinate a large shipment of meth bound for Minnesota, the affidavit filed by a Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy revealed.
On March 19, police at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport learned that a license plate reader detected Jiminez-Paz’s car showing up there that day and soon leaving, the affidavit continued.
On March 20, Jiminez-Paz’s cellphone was detected in Earlimart, Calif., a small town 150 miles north of Los Angeles that has seen numerous meth busts in recent years.
That same day, investigators put a GPS tracking device on Jiminez-Paz’s car in the Churchill indoor ramp. On March 21, the car traveled twice between the building and a Blaine apartment, where cocaine residue was collected by investigators on a doorknob.
On March 22, a man who lived at the Blaine apartment and an unidentified man arrived at the airport in the car, picked up Jiminez-Paz and drove to the Churchill. The raid was made the next day, when the drugs, weapons and other evidence was collected.
Under questioning Sunday after his arrest, Luna-Santillanes said that on the day Jiminez-Paz was picked up at the airport the two of them met someone not identified in the criminal complaint who gave them luggage containing 70 packages of meth.