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Drug bust begins in Cloquet

An alleged drug dealer is behind bars in Goodhue County as the result of a two-month investigation, initiated by the Cloquet Police Department, of a large-scale, multi-state methamphetamine and heroin distribution operation.

Joe Lee Brown, Jr., 30, of Red Wing was charged with one count of first-degree drug sale of 17 grams or more of cocaine or meth within a 90-day period. He was also charged with first-degree possession of 50 grams or more of cocaine or meth and felony manufacture/sell/transfer of simulated drugs.

"This investigation exposed large quantities of meth and heroin being sold in our community that directly affected the Fond du Lac Reservation," a CPD press release stated. Brown was arrested Dec. 14 in Red Wing.

The investigation began in Cloquet after an informant for the CPD told officers a dealer was coming to Cloquet to sell large amounts of meth, primarily on the Fond du Lac Reservation. As the investigation expanded, the Fond du Lac Police Department, Carlton County Sheriff's Department, FBI—Safe Streets Task Force and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension worked together to make the arrest.

According to the statement of probable cause, the informant told law enforcement that Brown makes trips to California to purchase large quantities of meth and allegedly delivers it to the Twin Cities metro area. Brown also allegedly brings meth to Carlton County and sells it on the reservation.

On Dec. 9, FDL officers had stopped Brown leaving a known meth dealers residence on the reservation. Brown was accompanied by a female passenger. When officers searched the vehicle, they discovered $6,000-8,000 in the woman's purse. Officers also discovered the vehicle was registered to a relative of the woman in Red Wing.

On Dec. 12, CPD detective Scott Holman was told by the informant that Brown was willing to sell him meth if he wanted to travel to the Twin Cities for it. The informant also told Holman he could buy approximately a quarter-pound of meth for $2,800.

On the morning of Dec. 14, law enforcement met at the BCA building in St. Paul for a team briefing. BCA Special Agent Adam Wright established protocol involving the money to be used by the informant to purchase the meth.

Shortly after noon, two CPD detectives and Agent Wright met with the informant for last-minute instructions.

A short time later, Brown contacted the informant and told him he couldn't meet him in St. Paul, and that he would need to travel to Red Wing to purchase the meth.

Law enforcement members were notified of the change in venue and immediately headed to Red Wing. They discovered the address, 671 E. Seventh St., was linked to the woman passenger with Brown Dec. 9.

When the officers arrived in town, they got in position near the tan duplex and waited.

After another meeting with the informant and additional recording device, the sting was underway.

The interaction between the informant and Brown was video-recorded. The two left the building and got into the informant's car and law enforcement officers followed.

The informant texted Holman and kept him updated on what was going on. Finally the informant texted that the transaction of 150 grams of meth had taken place and Brown had left him.

Law enforcement members met with the informant and took his statement. He told him he did not know where Brown went, but when he came back, he had a plastic container of pasta, a Coke can and a plastic liquid container with a white crystal substance in it that later was identified as meth.

Agent Wright contacted Goodhue County Dispatch about the transaction.

The meth purchased from Brown had a gross field weight of 165 grams, which NIK tested positive for the presence of meth.

Agent Wright explained to Red Wing Police Investigator Keegan Quinn that the purchase from Brown was originally scheduled in St. Paul, but was changed by Brown to Red Wing.

The Red Wing investigator determined Brown's father lived in the area where Brown and the informant had stopped.

Agent Wright and Quinn made arrangements for a second bust a week later, when Brown was arrested. That time, about 940 grams of meth was purchased.

Brown has felony arrests on his record, including sale of a controlled substance in August and felony fifth-degree possession of hydrocodone in September. He has a pending first-degree controlled substance case in Pine County and a pending third-degree controlled substance sale in St. Louis County.

Brown is scheduled to appear in Goodhue County District Court on Jan. 25 at 1 p.m.