An alleged drug dealer is behind bars in southeastern Minnesota as the result of a two-month investigation, initiated by the Cloquet Police Department, of a large-scale, multi-state methamphetamine and heroin distribution operation.
Joe Lee Brown Jr., 30, of Red Wing, Minn., was charged in Goodhue County with one count of first-degree drug sale of 17 grams or more of cocaine or meth within a 90-day period. He also was charged with first-degree possession of 50 grams or more of cocaine or meth and felony manufacture/sell/transfer of simulated drugs.
"This investigation exposed large quantities of meth and heroin being sold in our community that directly affected the Fond du Lac Reservation," a Cloquet police news release stated. Brown was arrested Dec. 14 in Red Wing.
The investigation began in Cloquet after an informant for the police department told officers a dealer was coming to Cloquet to sell large amounts of meth, primarily on the Fond du Lac Reservation. As the investigation expanded, the Fond du Lac Police Department, Carlton County Sheriff's Office, FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension worked together to make the arrest.
According to court documents:
The informant told law enforcement that Brown was making trips to California to purchase large quantities of meth and allegedly delivering it to the Twin Cities metro area. Brown also allegedly brought meth to Carlton County and sold it on the reservation.
On Dec. 9, Fond du Lac officers had stopped Brown leaving a known meth dealer's residence on the reservation. Brown was accompanied by a female passenger. When officers searched the vehicle, they discovered $6,000-8,000 in the woman's purse. Officers also discovered the vehicle was registered to a relative of the woman, who lived in Red Wing.
On Dec. 12, Cloquet police Detective Scott Holman was told by the informant that Brown was willing to sell him meth if he wanted to travel to the Twin Cities for it. The informant also told Holman he could buy about a quarter-pound of meth for $2,800.
On the morning of Dec. 14, law enforcement met at the BCA building in St. Paul for a team briefing. BCA Special Agent Adam Wright established protocol involving the money to be used by the informant to purchase the meth.
Shortly after noon, two Cloquet detectives and Wright met with the informant for last-minute instructions. A short time later, Brown contacted the informant and told him he couldn't meet him in St. Paul, and that he would need to travel to Red Wing to purchase the meth.
Law enforcement officers headed to Red Wing and discovered the address in Red Wing was linked to the woman who had been in a vehicle with Brown on Dec. 9.
The eventual interaction between the informant and Brown was video-recorded. The two left the building and got into the informant's car and law enforcement officers followed.
The informant texted Holman and kept him updated on what was going on, eventually texting that the transaction of 150 grams of meth had taken place and Brown had left. The informant returned with a plastic container with a white crystal substance in it that later was identified as meth. The meth allegedly purchased from Brown had a gross field weight of 165 grams.
Wright and Red Wing police made arrangements for a second sting operation a week later, during which Brown was arrested. That time, about 940 grams of meth was purchased.
Brown has felony arrests on his record, including sale of a controlled substance in August and felony fifth-degree possession of hydrocodone in September. He has a pending first-degree controlled substance case in Pine County and a pending third-degree controlled substance sale in St. Louis County.
In August 2016, Brown was arrested after dumping a bag of heroin from his vehicle window during a police pursuit that hit speeds of 100 mph between Carlton County and Duluth. Court records indicate he pleaded guilty last May to fleeing a police officer and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance in connection with that case, and was given a stayed 17-month prison sentence and three years of probation.
Brown is scheduled to appear in Goodhue County District Court on Jan. 25. As of Friday he remained in the Goodhue County Jail on $200,000 bail.
The News Tribune contributed to this report.