A three-day sweep led by federal agents included the arrests of more than 65 suspected heroin sellers in Minnesota, authorities say.
As the Associated Press reports, the operation called Project Exile focused on the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Rochester. It comes in response to a surge in heroin abuse in the state. Health officials report Minnesota has seen nearly 300 heroin-related deaths in the last 15 years but one-third of them have come in the past year, the AP says.
FOX 9 reports the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Lugar, described this week's crackdown as the largest heroin trafficking investigation in state history. FOX says Lugar explained that large amounts of high-purity, inexpensive heroin have been coming into Minnesota in recent years, adding: "Our goal is to make it as difficult as possible for drug cartels to bring heroin to our state."
The Star Tribune reports that since Lugar took over as U.S. Attorney in February he's made it clear in private conversations with federal prosecutors, county attorneys, and drug agents that a statewide coordinated response is needed to dent the drug smuggling operations of cartels based in Mexico.
The Star Tribune says Minnesota's heroin operations are dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel based in the southwestern part of Mexico.
Federal authorities in Chicago report recent inroads in the fight against that cartel. Chicago is a hub for the distribution of Mexican heroin through the Midwest. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that a close associate of cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is cooperating with prosecutors. The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that prosecutors brought another associate to the city to face charges.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is in Mexico this week to meet with law enforcement and drug agents about the fights against both drug and sex trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Lugar was among law enforcement officials hosting a town hall forum in Brooklyn Park Thursday evening to talk with residents about heroin addiction and treatment. It's part of a series of roundtable discussions that started in February and have included emotional accounts of the drug's dangers.
State officials say heroin sellers have found a fertile market in Minnesota because of the growing number of people addicted to opiate-based painkillers. The Department of Human Services produced a documentary called "Heroin at Home," looking at the growth in heroin and opiate abuse.