A sting operation has resulted in the largest methamphetamine bust ever in the Duluth region, officials said.
Authorities arrested nine people and confiscated $179,000 worth of methamphetamine in a sting, dubbed "Operation Taconite," that was organized by local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
Eight of the men were charged Monday in St. Louis County District Court with first-degree possession with intent to sell meth. Twenty pounds of the drug, worth $1 million, was making its way to the Duluth region each month, officials from the Lake Superior Drug Task Force said.
Police Chief Roger Waller said the operation resulted in what was believed to be the largest such bust in the region's history. He said the arrests "made a huge dent" in the local availability of meth.
Officials declined to provide many details, saying additional arrests still were possible. "It isn't done yet, but we've netted at least nine of the major players," Waller said.
Police believe the meth, rather than being made locally, was cooked in "super labs" in Mexico and California, brought to Minnesota by drug gang members and distributed by local dealers, some with extensive criminal records.
"The idea of the back yard cook shop is more the exception these days," Waller said.
Last week, an agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said a new state law designed to make meth ingredients harder to obtain is cutting into production of the illegal drug in Minnesota.
Investigators executed four search warrants and seized more than $40,000 cash and eight vehicles in the bust. Duluth's tactical response team was used to provide added protection during the arrests, but none of the suspects resisted, Waller said.
The suspects were arrested last week, and some of them may also be charged in U.S. District Court with federal drug trafficking crimes.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)