Hennepin Co. office puts focus on getting dealers off streets, charged

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty made clear Tuesday, her office is going after big-time drug dealers while seeking treatment and other care options for those struggling with substance use issues. 

The office announcing serious felony charges against a half-dozen people suspected of dealing large quantities of drugs including potent fentanyl. The six suspects were all arrested in recent days by law enforcement agencies across the metro.

"The amounts we saw in these arrests were huge amounts," Moriarty told FOX 9’s Paul Blume during an interview inside the Hennepin County Government Center. "These were dealer level amounts. There was no question about that."

In addition to the arrests, investigators seized 15,600 grams of fentanyl (approximately 34.5 pounds), 14 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly 2 pounds of cocaine, and at least seven firearms. Moriarty’s office said 2 to 3 milligrams is generally considered a lethal dose of fentanyl.

"These cases are the result of incredible work by our law enforcement partners to seize these narcotics and arrest those trying to spread them throughout our communities," Moriarty said in a written statement. "We have a public health crisis in our neighborhoods because of the fentanyl flooding the streets. We will not rest in our efforts to bring to justice those who seek to destroy our communities with these deadly drugs."

Those arrested and charged are 28-year old Matthew Rewald of Minneapolis, 35-year old Pierre Flowers of Eden Prairie, 27-year old Dejuan White of Minneapolis, 44-year old Gregory Collins of Minneapolis, 43-year old Kortney Roe of Moline, Illinois, and 22-year old Kevon Fenner of St. Paul. 

When BCA agents arrested Collins, they reportedly found kilos of powder fentanyl, presumably to be processed for drug sales, hidden inside cereal boxes.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s office is currently coordinating with the US Attorney to determine whether these suspected drug dealers should have their cases transferred into federal jurisdiction.

"It's absolutely in the category of, of an earthquake or a natural disaster. I mean, we're seeing the fatalities are just, it's like nothing we've ever seen before," Dan Gustafson said about the fentanyl crisis he has witnessed as a veteran drug treatment director at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Minneapolis.

Gustafson explained with other addictions, drug users may get second and third chances, but with fentanyl, he said such a small amount can lead to fatal overdoses.

"There's all the collateral damage that come along with the families you know, lots of kids losing parents, parents losing kids," said Gustafson. "It's a monstrous problem on the level of any natural disaster."

Gustafson said he is extremely supportive of Moriarty’s strategy of prosecuting the drug dealers on the supply side while treating people with substance dependency issues on the buying side from a public health perspective.

"It is so important we couldn't be more supportive of it," Gustafson said. "We really need to be cracking down, getting the stuff off the streets. I mean, it is just destroying so many lives."

Moriarty added, "So there isn't always a clean break between somebody who is struggling with substance abuse and somebody who's selling drugs. That doesn't always exist. But in these particular cases, these were extremely large amounts of dangerous drugs. There's absolutely no question that the people with those drugs were going to deal them and distribute them throughout our community."