Jury: Detroit man guilty in Twin Ports conspiracyA 43-year-old man from Detroit was found guilty by jury in federal court Aug. 16 in connection with charges of conspiring to distribute controlled substances including oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone and heroin in the Twin Ports.
A 43-year-old man from Detroit was found guilty by jury in federal court Aug. 16 in connection with charges of conspiring to distribute controlled substances including oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone and heroin in the Twin Ports.
Following a four-day trial, the jury convicted Lawrence Lalonde Colton of one count of conspiracy to distribute the controlled substances listed above as well as three separate counts of distributing or aiding and abetting distribution of oxymorphone.
Colton and 25 co-conspirators, including several from Superior, were indicted Sept. 21, 2011. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison for each count of conviction. Because the federal criminal justice system does not have parole, Colton will spend virtually his entire sentence behind bars. A federal district court judge will impose his actual sentence at a later hearing.
“This is another example of the outstanding partnership with the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. We will continue to focus our investigative efforts on illegal narcotics and firearms trafficking in the Twin Ports,” said Bernard J. Zapor, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
“This case will rid us of some long-time habitual offenders as well as help address the growing prescription drug and heroin problem facing our region,” said Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay in a prepared statement.
The evidence presented at Colton’s trial proved that from 2009 through September 2011, he conspired with no fewer than 25 people to distribute oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone and heroin in the Twin Ports’ area. The investigation in this case began in 2010, after law enforcement noted an increase in Opana trafficking in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Opana is a prescription painkiller that contains oxymorphone, a controlled substance.
Law enforcement officers conducted dozens of controlled purchases of Opana and other drugs sold illegally by ring members. As part of the investigation, authorities also executed search warrants on Sept. 27 at 11 properties throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. In those searches, they seized large amounts of narcotics as well as firearms, ammunition and about $30,000 in cash.
Seventeen of Colton’s co-defendants already have been sentenced for their roles in this drug trafficking operation, while eight have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing. Twenty-four of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, while one pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
On Dec. 21, Johnnie Lee Leddell, 31, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. In his plea agreement, he admitted he sold Opana pills to law enforcement officers on March 28, 2011. During the March 29, 2011, execution of a search warrant at his hotel room in Duluth, police also seized 130 pills containing narcotics and $2,940 in cash. On July 16, he was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.
The remaining defendants pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances:
On Aug. 9, U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty sentenced Daniel Albert Amatuzio, 24, of Duluth, to 46 months in prison. He pleaded guilty Dec. 20. In his plea agreement, Amatuzio admitted he conspired to distribute at least 300 Oxycontin pills in 2012. On Oct. 20, 2010, during the execution of a search warrant at his residence, police seized 105 40-milligram Oxycontin pills from a toolbox, 27.7 grams of marijuana and $427 in cash from a dresser drawer, and 236.6 grams of marijuana from beneath the kitchen sink.
Between Aug. 6 and Aug. 7, 10 co-defendants were sentenced to federal prison: Kyle Richard Bergman, 23, of Duluth, 57 months; Jeffrey James Boshey, 35, of Duluth, 100 months; Brian Troy Eastlick, 23, of Duluth, 57 months; Zachary John Hamel, 21, 52 months; Rindi Kay Koenen, 20, of Duluth, 37 months; Veronique Zsazsaantique Muckle, 22, of Superior, 52 months; Brian Keith Portis, 22, of Superior, 37 months; Cletis Bernard Portis, 31, of Superior, 200 months; Eric Phillip Romero, 44, of Duluth, 88 months; and Nicolas Zane Worley, 24, of Duluth, 32 months in federal prison.
Other defendants sentenced include Caine Ramus Starks, 29, of Duluth, 144 months; Ryan James Drickhamer, 23, of Duluth, 30 months; Brad Rodney Christofferson, 23, of Duluth, 36 months; Rhonda Ann Davis, 25, of Duluth, 52 months; Justin Paul Johnson, 21, of Duluth, 30 months;
Other defendants awaiting sentences and facing up to 20 years in federal prison include Gordon Eugene Sharp, 24, of Duluth; Jacob Keith Nagle, 24, of Duluth; Jeffrey Lamont Liddell, 28, of Superior; Daniel Allen Stenzel, 24, of Duluth; Krystal Lynn Willis, 26, of Esko; Dillon Phillip Beyers, 20, of Superior; Angelique Michelle Vos, 23, of Superior; and Ian Philip Stauber, 24, of Hermantown.
This case was the result of an investigation by the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, Duluth Police Department, Hermantown Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen A. Slaughter prosecuted the cases.