2 charged in Eveleth drug bust; man was previously deported
Authorities intercepted a package of meth mailed from the southern United States and also seized counterfeit pills.
VIRGINIA — Two Eveleth residents, including a Mexico native who had previously been deported, were arrested after the seizure of more than a pound of methamphetamine and 170 suspected fentanyl pills in a bust late last week.
Juan Pedro Alapisco-Ochoa, 50, and Rachel Michelle Lofgren, 52, were arraigned Monday in State District Court on felony charges related to the alleged distribution of drugs from their apartment at 618 Douglas Ave.
Sgt. Warren Johnson of the Lake Superior Violent Offender Task Force said the investigation showed that the duo was receiving large quantities of meth through the mail from the southern United States. Officers also recovered the counterfeit pills, marked "M30," which have been known to contain no active ingredient, the wrong ingredient or lethal amounts of fentanyl and other substances.
"Law enforcement officers nationwide are dealing with millions of fraudulent 'M30' pills that are currently being pressed in Mexico and then smuggled into the United States," Johnson said. "These counterfeit pills are often blue in color and stamped with 'M30' markings consistent with oxycodone; however, subsequent analysis reveals that the pills actually contain fentanyl, an extremely dangerous synthetic drug that is fatal in very small doses."
Court documents state that task force investigators were aware of controlled substances being mailed to various Iron Range addresses and worked with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to intercept a package that was to be delivered to Lofgren. A K-9 sniff provided a positive alert for the suspicion of drugs, and a warrant was obtained to open the package.
Inside, investigators said they found two packages totaling 481 grams of meth. They were inside two heat-sealed bags and stuffed into a bluetooth speaker, which itself was wrapped in a sweatshirt.
A postal inspector then delivered the package to Lofgren, who provided identification and accepted it, according to the criminal complaints. Both suspects were taken into custody without incident while authorities executed a warrant on the residence. Alapisco-Ochoa allegedly had been living under an alias and provided a false name to investigators before fingerprint matching revealed his true identity.
Authorities said the suspected meth was confirmed through field testing, but the 18 grams worth of suspected fentanyl pills were not immediately tested due to safety concerns.
Johnson said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Alapisco-Ochoa was in the country illegally and "had previously been deported numerous times in the past."
"This investigation highlights the fact that our Iron Range communities are not immune to the current nationwide issues relating to illegal immigration and the massive influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl coming across our southern border," he said.
St. Louis County prosecutor Stacey Scholz said the meth had an estimated street value of approximately $28,000, and indicated Alapisco-Ochoa did not have any prior ties to the area. Lofgren has a handful of prior convictions, including possession and driving under the influence of controlled substances. She has no felony convictions, but was still on probation.
Alapisco-Ochoa is charged with first-degree sale of a controlled substance, while Lofgren is accused of conspiracy to commit first- and second-degree sales. Both are being held at the St. Louis County Jail without bail — Lofgren for the alleged probation violation and Alapisco-Ochoa on an immigration hold.
Their next court dates are set for March 27.
Johnson encouraged the public to report suspicions of illegal drug activity to local law enforcement agencies.
Anyone struggling with addiction can contact the Arrowhead Regional Crisis Line is 844-772-4724.