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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Large-scale northwest Minnesota meth ring busted

BEMIDJI, Minn. -  Four suspects in a large-scale methamphetamine trafficking operation have been arrested in Beltrami County. 

Sheriff Phil Hodapp says over the past year investigators collected evidence of a sophisticated drug-smuggling and distribution ring around Bemidji, involving several other states and large quantities of meth sold in northwest Minnesota.  Agents arrested 54-year-old Philip Gurzi of Puposky, 44-year-old Tamara Halverson of Puposky, 46-year-old Shawn Jackson of Bemidji, and 56-year-old Raymond Nibbe Junior.  Hodapp says a large amount of cash, vehicles and other evidence was seized.


Moorhead Police who responded to an on-line sex ad arrested two people accused of prostituting a 13-year-old girl.  24-year-old Prince Jones of Fargo and 24-year-old Eyeesha Hinton of Minneapolis are each charged with two counts of sex trafficking.  An ad on Backpage.Com led police to a Moorhead motel, where they found a 13-year-old runaway from the Twin Cities.  Hours later, the suspects were arrested in Fargo.  The 13-year-old runaway is back with her family in the Twin Cities. 


Recent heavy rains have caused areas of high water and road closures in the Blackduck and Shooks areas of Beltrami County.  Water is nearly over the road on Highway 72 six miles north of Blackduck and on Hornet Road just north of Highway 71, and officials warn drivers to be extremely careful in those areas.  In addition, Willow Creeks Road in Shooks Township is closed about two-and-a-half miles north of Highway 1 due to water washing over the road.


Governor Dayton was in Rochester Friday morning touting Mayo Civic Center improvements financed by the bonding bill he signed.  At the same time the governor is getting political flak related to Mayo Clinic's planned expansion just blocks away.  Republican challenger Jeff Johnson criticizes Dayton for holding a campaign fundraiser in Rochester Thursday just hours after the special board on Mayo's expansion met.  Johnson says it looks like "pay to play" -- that people who contribute to Dayton's re-election campaign might benefit through legislation or some other way.  A spokesman for the Dayton campaign calls complaints about the timing of the fundraiser a "weak connection," noting there's no mention of the Mayo project in the fundraiser invitation.  The governor was also in Albert Lea yesterday for a ceremonial bill-signing highlighting environmental improvements to Fountain Lake.


The Army Corps of Engineers says it should have a plan ready within a year on how to save cemeteries south of Fargo-Moorhead from the impact of water stored by a flood-control project.  A survey has now identified that seven cemeteries could be underwater in the project's upstream storage area during major flooding.  The Corps says solutions could range from ring dikes to relocation of the cemeteries as a last resort.  A coalition representing the upstream cemeteries is upset by the potential flooding and warns more cemeteries would be damaged by the stored water. 


The state Agriculture Department has issued a consumer advisory for dairy products sold by Crazy Cow Creamery of Blue Earth due to improper labeling.  A routine MDA inspection found undeclared allergens including soy ingredients in Ranch Cheese Curds, milk ingredients in Vanilla Ice Cream, and milk and soy in Oreo Ice Cream.  The products were sold from the retail store attached to Crazy Cow Creamery.  Those with an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk, wheat or soy should not consume the products.  No illnesses have been reported.  


A Minnesota congressman pressed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for answers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday on the release of five Taliban detainees in exchange for American POW Bowe Bergdahl.  Republican Representative John Kline of Burnsville says lawmakers should have been notified before the swap took place and officials broke a policy on negotiating with terrorists.  Kline told Hagel the National Security Council, Obama administration, and other players have not cleared up the situation that led to the release, and the entire affair has been nothing but confusion.  Hagel responds the risks to Sergeant Bergdahl were growing as the negotiations continued, and he strongly defended the controversial prisoner swap.


The family of a former Minnesota woman fighting for her life in South Carolina is asking for donations to help with medical costs, after Oconee County investigators say Katie Cook was doused with gasoline and set on fire during a domestic dispute with her husband last month.  38-year-old Jacob Drotning is jailed on an attempted murder charge in the attack that left Cook with third-degree burns to 70-percent of her body.  She's in a Georgia burn unit in critical condition.  Both Cook and Drotning are originally from Minnetonka but recently moved south.  A fundraising web page for Katie Cook has been set up at  (


Minnesota exports of manufactured, agricultural and mining products increased two percent in the first quarter to five-billion dollars.  DEED Commissioner Katie Clark-Sieben  says exporters saw strong gains in traditional markets, but also made headway in newer markets for Minnesota products.  Exports grew 11 percent in the Middle East and 16 percent in the Australia-Pacific region, while sales to Mexico jumped 49 percent.  Canada was the state's top national market with sales of $1.2 billion dollars.  


With changing climate and more frequent weather extremes, the process of discussing risks and developing a community-based response started Thursday in one Minnesota town.  The "Rural Climate Dialogue" was held in Morris, and includes a 15-member citizen jury picked at random, says Anna Claussen with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  Claussen says the meeting is the first step in an effort to spur rural leadership and build resiliency.


The Minnesota Legislature recently passed the nation's first statewide ban on the use of anti-bacterial triclosan in consumer soaps, and a state lawmaker hopes it might help eliminate the agent from personal care products nationwide even before the ban takes effect in 2017. DFL Senator John Marty of Roseville says there is no evidence that the chemical beneficial to health, and there are growing concerns about possible risks to health and the environment.  Research by University of Minnesota Professor Bill Arnold documented that triclosan in wastewater breaks down into dioxin, and Marty says the new law will eliminate most of the triclosan that ends up in Minnesota waters. There are also concerns that it may add to the growing problem of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, with doctors and hospitals increasingly struggling against infections that don't respond to antibiotics.


A 35-year-old Bloomington woman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for filing false tax returns and selling methamphetamine.  Federal prosecutors say Moneer Khazraeinazmpour pleaded guilty to the charges in March, admitting that she and co-defendants Kelly Matteson, Gary Spear, and others used stolen identities to obtain more than a half-million dollars in bogus federal income tax refunds.  Khazraeinazmpour also admitted to selling meth at least twice last spring in Oakdale.  Matteson and Spear also pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges.  They have not yet been sentenced.