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Prosecutors: Theft from St. Paul drug house led to kidnapping, torture

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The Pioneer Press reports members of a Mexican drug cartel are accused of kidnapping and torture after a theft from a stash house in St. Paul.

Unidentified sources tell the newspaper a federal grand jury is also considering evidence in the case and may issue indictments this week.

The Pioneer Press says three men were charged in Ramsey County District Court with kidnapping, robbery, and assault in April. The criminal complaint alleges the men acted after drugs and money were stolen from a house in the West Seventh neighborhood. Court papers describe a man whose finger was nearly severed and a woman who was interrogated and raped at the stash house, the newspaper says.

The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment on the prospect of a federal indictment.

Local police and federal agents have been tracking the growing activity of Mexican cartels in Minnesota.

In a story broadcast last week Dan Moren, special agent in charge of Minnesota operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration, told KARE 11 Mexican cartels are active in Minnesota. "They control the manufacturing, the smuggling, the distribution, and collection of proceeds from heroin production," he said.

KARE's crew looked on as an undercover agent purchased $500 worth of heroin from a low-level dealer near a St. Paul strip mall.

Abusers of prescription painkillers have provided a fertile market for heroin sellers. Agents tell KARE heroin production has doubled since 2005 and a Ramsey County task force says already this year it has seized more than half a million dollars worth.

In March the Star Tribune reported on the flow of heroin coming into Minnesota either through Chicago or up Interstate 35 from Mexico. Moren of the DEA told the newspaper: “What you are seeing is a Mexican cartel … creating a business model that is ingenious and cornering the market on what is now an epidemic.”

Last month federal agents arrested dozens of suspected heroin dealers in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Rochester in an operation nicknamed Project Exile.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar traveled to Mexico in April to talk with authorities there about strategies for reining in the drug trade and human trafficking.

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