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Rice County couple charged after $75k worth of fentanyl pills seized during traffic stop

Christopher James Payne and Kaley Maria Wethern have been charged in the seizure.
Christopher Payne and Kaley Wethern

A Rice County couple has been charged after more than $75,000 worth of fentanyl pills were seized.

According to the Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force, in the past two months, agents received information from multiple sources that Christopher James Payne, 31, was involved in the illegal sale of fentanyl in Faribault. He had also been reportedly illegally possessing firearms.

On May 13, Faribault police carried out a traffic stop on a car for a stop sign violation and expired vehicle registration. Payne, the driver, admitted to having a canceled driver’s license. Payne’s girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle, Kaley Maria Wethern, 32, was also in the car.

Police conducted a K9 search of the car and found a black backpack containing a handgun, a glass pipe with methamphetamine residue on it, and documents with Payne’s name on them.

Officers then located a plastic container of blue and gray pills suspected to be fentanyl. The pills were later confirmed to be fentanyl, with a street value of around $75,000.

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A May 14 search warrant of Payne and Wethern’s home in Faribault found a small amount of methamphetamine, as well as a letter in which Wethern acknowledged Payne had been selling drugs to others and that those individuals may need Narcan to combat an overdose.

When questioned, Wethern admitted that she had handled the container of pills and that her DNA would be on it. She also admitted that she had written the letter and stated that the gun in the car belonged to Payne.

Payne has been charged with 1st-degree aggravated controlled substance crimes and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Wethern is facing charges for 1st-degree and 5th-degree controlled substance crimes.

“This significant seizure undoubtedly saved lives in Rice and Le Sueur counties and others across the state of Minnesota,” said Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force Commander Scott O’Brien in a statement. 

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