Mexican Cartel-Linked Drug Operation Busted in Minnesota, Say Police

Mexico seizes record 50 tons of meth
AFP/DANIEL ROLAND

A raid on a luxury high-rise residence in downtown Minneapolis Saturday resulted in the seizure of 64 pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of heroin, and the arrests of two males–one believed to have direct ties to a Mexican cartel.

The morning raid was a result of a multi-agency operation in which investigators received information from a confidential informant that one of the defendants, later identified as Gonzalo Jiminez-Paz Jr., was planning to travel to California to finalize a large shipment of methamphetamine for delivery to Minnesota, according to an affidavit filed by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department. Investigators surveilled Jiminez-Paz and were able to determine that on March 19, his vehicle arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and on March 20, his cellphone was traced to Earlimart, California, according to the Star-Tribune. On March 22, investigators detected activity suggesting that Jiminez-Paz returned to his apartment in Minneapolis and the search warrant was executed the following day.

Investigators reportedly discovered two suitcases containing 70 packages of methamphetamine with a total weight of 64 pounds, three pounds of heroin inside a shoe box, a bag of unidentified blue pills, two loaded handguns, 11 cellphones, and numerous rounds of ammunition. The apartment tower overlooks the Mississippi River and is directly across the street from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offices.

During the service of the search warrant, investigators also arrested a co-defendant identified as Rey David Luna-Santillanes. During questioning, Luna-Santillanes reportedly told investigators that on the day that Jiminez-Paz returned to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, they met with an unidentified co-conspirator who gave them a suitcase containing 70 packages of methamphetamine.

Gonzalo Jiminez-Paz Jr. and Rey David Luna-Santillanes, both age 22 from Minneapolis, were charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald.

In April 2018, the Star-Tribune reported on a series of major drug busts in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area to include the seizure of 152 pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop. The vehicle had departed Phoenix, Arizona, and was destined for Minnesota. The defendant in that case reportedly admitted to making 15 prior trips before being arrested. Approximately one month later, investigators seized 82 pounds of methamphetamine believed to belong to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at robertrarce@gmail.com.

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