County helps with major pot bust

Five people were arraigned on first-degree controlled substance crime for possession of pot with intent to sell.

On Feb. 14, the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force arrested Felix Martinez-Garza, 41, of McAllen Texas, Martin Garza, 40, of Texas, Israel Benavidez, 47, of Rio Grande, Texas, Cesar Valdez-Gonzalez, 46, of Rio Grande, Texas, and John Wisdom, 27, of Hidalgo, Texas, for first-degree possession of marijuana.

According to Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott, the Sherburne County Drug Task Force, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force concluded a five-month-long investigation into a drug trafficking, transportation and distribution organization that originated in Texas and was responsible for bringing large amounts of marijuana into Minnesota.

Through their investigation, investigators were able to learn that the organization was allegedly using a residence in the 21000 block of Sherburne County Road 83, Big Lake Township, as a stash house to hold and distribute large amounts of marijuana into the surrounding area. Investigators learned that the suspects would then take the proceeds from the drug sales and purchase motor vehicles and then transport the motor vehicles back to Texas, where the vehicles were sold.

On Feb. 11, investigators learned that the suspects were at the residence on County Road 83 and set up surveillance of the residence and followed the suspects as they visited used car lots.

On Feb. 14, investigators followed the suspects to the city of Rogers where the suspects were joined by a semi tractor trailer with Texas license plates. The investigators followed the semi tractor trailer back to the residence on County Road 83 and once the suspects returned to the residence, a search warrant was executed on the residence. All five individuals were taken into custody. Investigators seized approximately 313 pounds of marijuana with a street value of over $500,000. A small amount of cash was seized as well as a Lincoln Navigator and the semi tractor trailer.

All five individuals were arraigned in Sherburne County District Court for first-degree controlled substance crime of possession and first-degree controlled substance possession with the intent to sell. Martinez-Garza is being held on $750,000 bail and Garza, Benavidez, Valdez-Gonzalez and Wisdom are all being held on $500,000 bail each.

“The magnitude of this seizure is proof that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat narcotics trafficking. It is also proof of what can be accomplished through establishing and maintaining collaborative law enforcement partnerships,” said Carver County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Blair Anderson.

In addition to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Minnesota State Patrol.

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