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Duluth police announce 35 arrests in major Minnesota drug bust

The operation resulted in 35 people arrested and the seizure of more than $1 million worth of methamphetamine, heroine and cocaine.
Credit: St. Louis County Jail

DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth Police announced the arrest of several gang members, including the alleged leader Thursday, in connection with a drug operation that spreads across Minnesota and other midwestern states.

Authorities say this week’s coordinated drug bust led to 35 arrests in Minnesota, from Rochester in the southern part of the state to the Iron Range in the north. An additional five men in state prisons were also charged, and more arrests are possible. Police said they seized more than 1,200 grams of meth and 500 grams of heroin and fentanyl. The drugs confiscated have a street value in excess of $1 million. 

The drug operation is believed to be led by Ricky Antoinne Osborne of Rochester.

"Like I was saying, this is the biggest case we have ever done," said Lt. Jeffrey Kazel of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. "Logistically, it has been a huge project to get where we are at. Just the sheer numbers of the people were are dealing with."

"It's very positive news. At least the head in this area for the Black P. Stone Nation," said Capt. Vincent Scheckel of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

A gang that distributes drugs across the region, Black P. Stone Nation, has a broad influence.

"People throughout the area, everywhere from Chicago, to Minneapolis to Duluth, even further south, the Atlanta area," Scheckel said.

RELATED: Agents: Meth bust shuts down major Minnesota drug supplier

Osborne is the gang's alleged leader and is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated controlled substance crime and three counts of aiding and abetting.

"Drug trafficking has been a problem in Rochester for many, many years. I've been in Rochester now since 1990 and there's always a different group it seems," Scheckel said.

Operation West Side Moes, as it was called, started in December, but was interrupted by the pandemic. It required a lot of undercover work from dozens of law enforcement organizations.

"They had controlled buys of controlled substances. They had physical surveillance of drug dealing," said St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin. "People need to understand how much work goes into this. Probably most significant in this case is that we used court ordered interception of electronic communication. Court ordered."

RELATED: 2 in custody after major drug bust in Meeker County

The presence of fentanyl in the drugs seized was also a cause for concern.

"Wherever they can make their money," Scheckel said. "It's all about the money."

The Duluth police chief said that while they cannot "arrest their way out of the drug problem," Thursday's arrest did dismantle a significant drug trafficking organization.

Scheckel says tips from citizens do help in drug busts and he encourages residents to report suspicious activity in their neighborhood.