Duluth police: Heroin bust nets one of city’s biggest dealers
One of the biggest drug dealers in the city has been arrested, while a dozen more area suspects are still wanted on arrest warrants in connection with the largest heroin trafficking investigation in state history, officials said Monday.
“Operation Exile,” a statewide investigation involving local, state and federal agencies from Duluth, Rochester and the Twin Cities metro area, has already led to the arrests of 29 people in St. Louis County. More than 150 arrest warrants were issued statewide, including 41 in Duluth.
The alleged dealer was in possession of more than an ounce each of heroin and cocaine. The heroin alone was worth about $17,000, police said.
Duluth police Lt. Steve Stracek said the task force took out a major dealer on Thursday with the arrest of 38-year-old Antonio Dantinue Long. The Duluth man was formally charged Monday in State District Court with possessing more than 25 grams of heroin and cocaine, third-degree sale of a controlled substance and felon in possession of a firearm.
Stracek, who serves as commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, said the department continues to follow leads and the investigation is ongoing. More arrests are likely, he said.
“Obviously, the goal here is to take out the dealers and sources of distribution throughout the state,” Stracek said. “Sometimes that involves taking out some of the smaller street-level dealers.”
Most of the 29 arrests were for second- or third-degree sale of a controlled substance. Numerous suspects were also taken into custody on other charges, including firearms and violations of probation or parole.
Stracek said the task force is seeing heroin dealers come to the Twin Ports with ties to gangs in larger cities, including Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit. A gram of heroin sells for $300 to $400 in Duluth, a rate significantly higher than larger cities, he said.
“A lot of the time, we see a rotation of sellers through a residence,” Stracek said. “You may have one guy here for a week selling heroin and crack. He’ll leave town and then someone new will come the following week and take up shop. So it’s hard to keep on those specific targets long enough to take them out.”
Stracek said Long’s arrest was a major victory in the fight against drug trafficking in the city. Police said they seized about 34 grams of heroin and 33 grams of crack cocaine from Long’s home on the 300 block of North Seventh Avenue West. Long was also in possession of a handgun that was stolen from a gun show in Moose Lake in May 2013, according to police.
Last year, 12 grams of heroin and 10 grams of crack were seized from a woman who lives at the same residence, police said.
Long’s bail was set at $100,000 during his first appearance in court Monday. Police said Long has previous convictions in Illinois for attempted murder and felony battery.