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Twin Ports men held in 60-pound pot bust in South Dakota

What began as a routine speed violation on a South Dakota highway ended with a 66-year-old Duluth man and a 64-year-old Superior man under arrest and facing drug charges for allegedly transporting 60 pounds of marijuana and 150 grams of hashish, thanks to a highway patrolman and his police dog, Rocko.

Dennis Krivinchuk of Superior and Richard Ward of Duluth were arrested Monday, and charges were filed Tuesday in circuit court in Rapid City, and include marijuana possession and intent to distribute, according to criminal complaint and probable cause affidavit documents filed with the court. Neither man immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment.

The two were driving through Pennington County, S.D., when their vehicle was pulled over by Trooper Brian Swets, according to an affidavit detailing Swets' account of the incident. The officer said he initially intended to give the driver a warning, but noted in his account that both driver and passenger seemed nervous.

"I informed them of the speed violation and requested a driver license from the driver," Swets said in the court statement.

"The passenger was smoking a freshly lit cigar and his hand trembled as he held the cigar near the window. The driver handed me a Wisconsin driver license identifying him as Dennis A. Krivinchuk," Swets said. "I saw

Krivinchuk's hand shook as he handed me the license."

The trooper said he asked Krivinchuk to come back to his patrol car as he issued him a courtesy warning for the speeding violation. Once inside the vehicle, the two men spoke and Swets learned that the Twin Ports residents were coming from Elko, Nev., and that Krivinchuk had driven to Nevada to pick up Ward because the latter's vehicle had broken down.

"He said they were old Vietnam buddies. Krivinchuk became increasingly nervous as I spoke with him about the trip and he paused and stumbled as he answered the questions," Swets said.

Swets then returned to the vehicle and asked Ward for the automobile registration, and where the two men were coming from.

"Ward stated he was on vacation gruffly. I asked where he went on vacation. He stated the only reason I stopped them was to talk with them. I informed him that speaking with them was part of my job," Swets stated. "I asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle. Ward was upset and stated he was going to invoke his Second Amendment rights."

Soon Ward's responses to the patrolman, who asked if there were any weapons in the vehicle, were limited to nonverbal shakes of the head, according to the affidavit.

That's when Swets deployed his Police service dog, Rocko. The canine sniffed the rear of the vehicle and indicated detecting the odor of an illegal substance coming from inside.

A detailed search revealed about 60 pounds of high-grade marijuana and about 150 grams of marijuana wax or hashish, and individual containers to put the hashish in, according to court documents.

Krivinchuk and Ward were placed in handcuffs. Swets searched Krivinchuk and found a pack of rolling papers in his pocket. The men and their vehicle were taken to the Rapid City Department of Transportation Shop, where authorities found three duffel bags containing marijuana and hashish.

"We discovered a list in each bag indicating how many pounds was in the bag and the price for the contents of the bag," Swets said. "Ward also had a list of the weights and dollar amounts in his backpack. A drug ledger was located on the (vehicle's) center console."

Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Preston Patterson interviewed Krivinchuk and stated in documents that Krivinchuk admitted to knowledge of the marijuana, claiming it belonged to Ward, and that Ward was going to give him marijuana for using his car on the trip. Krivinchuk claimed ownership of the drug ledger.

After his arrest, police obtained a urine sample from Krivinchuk, which tested positive for THC.

When Ward was asked to provide a urine sample, he stated he wanted an attorney and didn't want to answer any questions. About a minute later, Ward said he was having chest pain. An ambulance was called and Ward was transported to the hospital, where tests were conducted and he was later released. Ward was then taken to the Pennington County jail and booked, according to the affidavit.

A preliminary hearing for Krivinchuk and Ward is scheduled for Dec. 4. Bail was set at $60,000 and it wasn't clear Wednesday whether the men had posted it.

News Tribune staff writers Mike Creger and Alysee Shelton, as well as the Associated Press, contributed to this report.