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Cocaine bust won't stop traffic

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

Dan Pulford has no illusions that Monday's major drug bust will put him out of work.

Pulford is a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department and head of the narcotics unit.

On Monday, local and state law enforcement officers arrested two brothers in Rochester and seized two kilograms of cocaine, which authorities have called the largest single cocaine bust in city history.

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Officials say the drugs could easily bring $2 million on the street.

But Pulford knows that this is not the end of cocaine trafficking in the city.

"We stopped this one, but there will be always be someone else to take over," he said.

Brothers Julio and Sixto Jimenez-Quinones were arraigned in Olmsted District Court shortly before noon Wednesday. Each faces multiple drug charges, ranging from conspiracy to first-degree sale and possession of cocaine. Julio, 24, is from Chicago; Sixto, 25, is from Amarillo, Texas.

Judge Joseph Chase set bail at $2 million each and scheduled the brothers' next court appearance for Oct. 30. That was after Senior Assistant County Attorney Jim Spencer said the two are Mexican nationals and that if they posted bail, the Immigration and Naturalization Service would immediately put a hold on them.

The brothers could then demand immediate deportation as a means to avoid prosecution on the drug charges. Spencer said if that happened, the INS would have no legal basis to continue to hold the brothers.

While Chase questioned how that could occur with pending criminal charges, he agreed to set the high bail requested by Spencer. He also indicated the bail issue could be revisited after the brothers retain attorneys.

The two were arrested while allegedly selling a kilo of cocaine to an undercover police officer in a business parking lot Monday afternoon. Another kilo of cocaine was found hidden in the airbag compartment of a vehicle belonging to one of the brothers, authorities said.

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The market in Rochester

Pulford said there is no question the drugs were intended for Rochester.

Spencer told Chase that the street value could easily exceed $2 million. Spencer prosecutes most of the drug cases in the county, and before joining the Olmsted County attorney's office was a special assistant state attorney general. He said he has never handled a drug case involving this much cocaine.

A kilo of cocaine weighs 1,000 grams or 2.2 pounds. Pulford said the street value depends on how the drug is broken down and where and to whom it is sold. He said in Rochester, one-third of a gram of cocaine typically sells for $50.

"We are a little bit more of an affluent community in Rochester. There is money here," Pulford said. He said the same amount would sell for $10 in Chicago. In the Twin Cities, it would sell for $25. He said another variable is that some dealers sell in larger quantities, such as ounces, or half-ounces.

He said traffickers typically sell the kilo to wholesalers in a community who might have 15 to 20 vendors working for them, selling the drugs on the street.

The wholesalers and street vendors might break the drug down, mixing it with baking powder or powdered sugar. That way, they stretch the quantity and make two to four times the money.

Pulford said that in this case, the powder cocaine was pure and unmixed.

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He said the cocaine was in brick form, double wrapped and taped. He said it typically originates in the coca-producing regions of South America, then is converted into cocaine and shipped to traffickers in Mexico and up the pipeline into the United States. Officials say two-thirds of the cocaine distributed in the United States comes over the U.S.-Mexico border.

Making a dent

In the past year, narcotics officers in southeastern Minnesota have made similar arrests in Dodge and Wabasha counties. All of those cases remain open. Pulford said all the cases probably aren't connected, but that he suspects all were working for what he called the Mexican drug cartel.

"Are they working for the Mexican cartel? Yeah, I would say so. Can we trace them all back to that? Can we prove it? No," he said.

Pulford said he knows Monday's arrests didn't plug the pipeline.

"Not in a heartbeat," he said. "There are semis in Mexico (full of cocaine), and one of those is destined to come to Minnesota." And, he said, there are always people ready to make money selling drugs.

But, Pulford said, any time two kilos of cocaine is taken off the streets in Rochester, it helps the community.

"All the other problems we have, the vice crimes, the robberies, are all related to drugs," he said. "That means we take some of the other problems out of here, too."

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