Four suspected members of a sophisticated methamphetamine trafficking organization were arrested Tuesday according to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department.
Commander Gary Pederson said the arrests were the culmination of a year-long investigation into a methamphetamine pipeline which he believes connected Bemidji directly to large-scale drug producers in southern California.
Pederson heads up the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force, which led eight law enforcement agencies in the investigation.
"People do make meth in the back woods by themselves, but that's in very small quantity," he said. "Southern California and Mexico have what are referred to as super labs that manufacture on a commercial scale."
With their direct connection, Pederson said the Bemidji distributors were able bypass the usual middlemen and to sell high-grade methamphetamine for lower than usual prices across Northwest Minnesota. That's the first time, he said, such a high-volume link has been made in Beltrami County.
Philip Eugene Gurzi, 54, of Puposky was charged Friday with three counts of 1st degree sale and distribution of methamphetamine. Each count could bring a 30 year prison term and $1 million fine.
Tamara Sue Halverson, 44, of Puposky was charged Friday with 1st degree conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Shawn Elston Jackson, 46, and Raymond Jesse Nibbe Jr., 56 both of Bemidji were each charged Friday with two counts of 1st degree sale and distribution of methamphetamine.
Narcotics agents conducted several search warrants and seized a large amount of cash, vehicles and other evidence.
Small amounts of methamphetamine were also found, but much larger quantities of the drug were seized at an earlier time Pederson said.