Jury finds woman guilty in meth case
A Carlton County jury found a woman accused of possessing and selling a large amount of methamphetamine guilty of all charges last week. Christina Vanda Garza, 38, of White Bear Lake, was found guilty of two first-degree drug sale and two first-d...
A Carlton County jury found a woman accused of possessing and selling a large amount of methamphetamine guilty of all charges last week.
Christina Vanda Garza, 38, of White Bear Lake, was found guilty of two first-degree drug sale and two first-degree drug possession charges, one fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance - all felonies - and one charge of introducing contraband drugs into a jail facility, a gross misdemeanor.
Assistant Carlton County Attorney Michael Boese, who prosecuted the case with fellow Carlton County Assistant Attorney Jeffrey Boucher, praised the teamwork of local law enforcement agencies for their work, noting that the undercover operation resulted in the removal of a pound of meth from the streets.
"This was the largest amount (of meth) anyone in our office can remember," said Boese, explaining that one-eighth or one-fourth pound of meth is considered a big haul.
"Everyone worked really hard; everyone did a really good job and it worked."
The Cloquet Police Department was the lead agency on the case, with assistance from Fond du Lac and Moose Lake police departments, along with officers from the Carlton County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol.
According to the criminal complaint, at approximately 11:47 p.m. June 22, the combined law enforcement agencies were working together with a cooperating witness who assisted by purchasing 1 pound (455 grams) of meth for $9,000 using prerecorded or marked money. The deal took place in the parking lot at Kwik Trip in Moose Lake.
Garza and Michael Anthony Marquardt, 32, of Minneapolis, drove a white Chevrolet Monte Carlo from the Twin Cities area to the Kwik Trip and met with the witness, who had been arrested previously by Cloquet PD after a traffic stop.
Before the meeting, the law enforcement agencies had provided the witness with the marked cash to purchase the drugs. The witness gave Garza and Marquardt the cash in exchange for 1 pound of meth in a 1-gallon plastic bag. Many law enforcement officers witnessed the transaction and immediately "swooped in" as soon as it was completed to make arrests. The cooperating witness gave the plastic bag containing the drugs to the officers.
The officers field tested and weighed the meth to confirm it was 1 pound and a narcotics identification kit test confirmed it was meth. Garza and Marquardt were transported to the Carlton County Jail, where Garza was allegedly caught attempting to smuggle in roughly 2 grams of meth in her bra.
According to the complaint, Garza told law enforcement that Marquardt was the owner of the car and they had made arrangements to meet at Kwik Trip with the cooperating witness for the drug deal. She also admitted to seeing the witness give the money to Marquardt and then watching as Marquardt counted the money to ensure it was all there. After the money was verified, Garza gave the witness the meth.
According to Cloquet Police Detective Scott Holman, the pair had been supplying large amounts of meth to the Carlton County area.
Marquardt pleaded guilty to "second-degree sale of a narcotic other than heroin" in October, and a first-degree charge of drug possession was dismissed. He was sentenced to 58 months in prison in St. Cloud, with credit for 119 days served.
After a three-day trial last week, the jury deliberated for an hour and a half before finding Garza guilty of all six charges.
Sentencing is set for Feb. 28. Boese said Garza could face 73-102 months in prison, according to sentencing guidelines.