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Police: EBT/SNAP Cards Traded for Drugs, 30 Arrested

Posted at: 02/08/2013 11:27 AM
Updated at: 02/08/2013 11:03 PM

Officers have arrested thirty people in connection with a crack cocaine trafficking investigation in the Twin Ports area.

The arrests came this week after a nine-month investigation dubbed "Operation Crackdown."  Investigators say suspects were trading crack cocaine for EBT/SNAP debit cards at approximately half the face value of the cards.  Investigators say they used decoy EBT/SNAP cards to conduct multiple controlled buys of crack cocaine.

"This is relatively new for us," said Lt. Steve Stracek, Commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. "The dealers would either go to the store with the buyer, and buy groceries with the cards. Or force the buyer to prove the card still had money, and then take the card."

Besides the thirty people arrested this week, another half-dozen people who were already in custody face additional charges and authoritees are seeking another ten people.  Many of those arrested have significant criminal histories, including one with a homicide conviction who was allegedly found in a Central Hillside residence where two handguns were concealed in ceiling tiles.

Search warrants were executed at seven Twin Ports locations:

Those who have been charged include:

Officers and investigators from numerous departments assisted in the investigation and arrests, including the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Boundary Waters Drug Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshal Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Duluth, Superior, Cloquet, Fond du Lac, and St. Paul police departments, and sheriff's offices in St. Louis, Douglas, Lake, and Carlton counties.

Police urged people who believe they have information about welfare assistance fraud to call Minnesota's Welfare Fraud Hotline at 1-800-627-9977.  Reports can be made anonymously.