Cocaine leads to recharge in lost pot case

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    Cocaine leads to recharge in lost pot case
    Bureau of Criminal Apprehension finds residue on scale

    Felony drug possession charges were dismissed and filed again for a man accused of being involved in a plan to have several pounds of marijuana delivered to a Hubbell Avenue apartment.

    The charges were first filed against 44-year-old Alfredo Narvaez Espinoza in March after police intercepted two packages at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The packages, which investigators reported contained marijuana packed in PVC pipes, weighed about 39 pounds.

    Although investigators executed a search warrant at the Hubbell Avenue apartment where the suspected marijuana was delivered, the pot-filled PVC pipes already had been removed from their packages and had disappeared, court records said. The apartment belonged to a woman, 45-year-old Magdalena Rodriguez, who is scheduled to go to trial in December for a felony charge related to the delivery.

    Espinoza was living in a neighboring apartment. Investigators did not find him, nor Rodriguez, when the search warrant was executed, court records said. A third man was found at Rodriguez’s apartment, but he said he didn’t know anything about the package or what was in it.

    Espinoza was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 22 for a fifth-degree possession charge related to the delivery, but the trial was canceled after the charge was dismissed. Chris Rovney, assistant Blue Earth County attorney, said District Court Judge Bradley Walker found there was no probable cause for the marijuana charge.

    Since that ruling, however, a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension test found that residue found on a scale in Espinoza’s apartment was from cocaine. Only a small amount of cocaine is needed for a felony possession charge, the fifth-degree charge was filed again Monday, Rovney said.

    On Oct. 23, investigators executed a search warrant at an apartment in the same Hubbell Avenue complex. This time an 8-pound package was found by a drug-sniffing dog at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

    When the United Parcel Service package was searched, an airport investigator found what he estimated was between 3 and 6 pounds of marijuana.

    Members of the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force were issued a search warrant and delivered the package, which was addressed to a “Mark Pena,” to the Hubbell Avenue apartment.

    The apartment was vacant and no one was there to accept the package.

    All of the intercepted packages that had been delivered to the Hubbell Avenue Apartments had been sent from Brownsville, Texas, court records said. The two packages delivered in March were sent from a different UPS location in Brownsville than the package found Oct. 23.

    The latest package was delivered to the empty apartment on a Friday. The drug possession charge was refiled against Espinoza three days later.

    That was a coincidence, Rovney said, adding that he was not aware of the latest Hubbell Avenue search.

    By Dan Nienaber
    Free Press Staff Writer

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