An auto repair business in the Twin Cities is likely closing its doors, but it's not for lack of business. As a matter of fact, business has been quite good -- it just has little to do with cars.
Federal authorities say Auto Laser Complete Auto Repair in Spring Lake Park was a front for a major drug trafficking operation. According to U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, the business was used by 24-year-old Eduardo Penaloza-Romero, leader of the ring's Minnesota branch, to store and distribute meth.
Luger's office announced Wednesday that 12 suspects were indicted earlier in the day for involvement in the narcotics ring. Six of those charged, including Penaloza-Romero, are from Minnesota. The rest are from California and Chicago.
"Although [Auto Laser] appears to have some legitimacy, the overall business operation appears to be a front," read an affidavit which was the basis for a search warrant for the repair shop, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
If it sounds a little bit like the plot of a certain AMC drama series dealing with meth, that's because the size and scope of the drug trafficking ring isn't far off. The group's illegal activities extended all the way out to California.
The Star Tribune reports police stopped a car in August that was traveling from California to the Auto Laser garage carrying 10 pounds of meth.
To break up the ring, officials conducted a complex investigation that began in 2011. According to the U.S. Attorney, agents made nine purchases of narcotics from associates of the group over the past three years, and seized some $600,000 in cash, 47 pounds of meth and a handgun.
According to the Pioneer Press, officials said the ring also dealt in marijuana and cocaine.
In a statement Wednesday, J. Michael Netherland of St. Paul's Homeland Security Investigations said "we've successfully dismantled a dangerous drug trafficking organization responsible for flooding the Twin Cities with methamphetamine."
Charged in the indictment were Eleuterio Izazaga-Pascacio, 48, of Fresno; Imer Penaloza-Pineda, 36, of Zihuatanejo, Mexico; Eduardo Penaloza-Romero, 24, of Spring Lake Park; Gerrardo Sanchez, 28, of Chicago; Felix Velazquez-Garay, 41, of St. Paul; Arnaldo Enrique Almendarez, 40, of St. Paul; Aundray Lindsey, 36, of St. Paul; Cesar Daniel Molina-Carranza, 31, of St. Paul; Magedaleno Perez-Arenas, 36, of St. Paul; Ramon Espinosa-Cardenas of Fresno; Alfredo Basurto-Herrera, 26, of Fresno; and Jesus Sotelo-Valdovinos, 40, of Fresno.
Authorities in Duluth broke up a heroin ring in May with the arrest of a suspect described as a“major dealer” in Duluth’s heroin scene.