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Grand Forks man accused of stealing own drug test samples, kits from county office

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

A Grand Forks man is accused of twice breaking into a Grand Forks County office to steal his own urine sample and drug testing equipment to avoid having to take another test.

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Benjamin Gordon Ewing, 19, was arraigned Thursday in Grand Forks County District Court.

Police say they believe he made a third attempt to break into the Community Service and Restitution Office after testing positive for cocaine, but was thwarted by a janitor.

Ewing was out on bond after being charged with three felony drug counts in April, but needed to submit to regular drug tests -- and pass -- as a condition of his release.

Too-hot urine

A court affidavit said on Sept. 9, Ewing submitted a sample that was more than 100 degrees, making authorities suspicious he had used a hand warmer to heat up the urine. The sample was too hot to test and Ewing was asked to give another sample.

He was "not happy" but eventually submitted another sample, which showed a preliminary positive test for opiates, the affidavit said. The sample was held to be sent for evaluation but, sometime overnight, the office at 311 S. Fourth St. Suite 201 was burglarized.

A window was smashed to gain entry and two computer screens were damaged. A crow bar was left behind. Missing were three urine samples, including Ewing's.

On Sept. 13, Ewing submitted another sample. This time it was 103 degrees. He was told that he would need to return the next day to give a new sample.

There was another overnight burglary at the office.

The same window was broken. Missing this time were all of the 80 drug testing kits at the facility.

Busted

On Sept. 19, Ewing was in for another screening and tested positive for cocaine.

On Sept. 22 at 4:49 a.m., there was an attempted break-in.

The janitor told police he heard some banging and checked on the noise. He found a man wearing a black hooded shirt and a scarf covering his face with a crowbar.

He tried to grab the man, described as 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, but the man was able to run to a white Jeep Wrangler and drive away.

Shortly after the burglary was reported, police drove to Ewing's home, where they soon saw a white Jeep arrive. A man got out and went into the home.

Ewing's Jeep's license plates were HIM 663. The janitor, who said he wasn't completely certain about the plates, reported the getaway vehicle as having plates HTN 963, which aren't being presently used in North Dakota.

Because police saw Ewing driving the Jeep, there was probable cause for a search warrant. At his home, police found four testing kits with matching lot numbers from the community service office during the Sept. 14 burglary.

Ewing told police they were given to him by someone else, but wouldn't say who.

Police also found two codeine pills, hand warmers, another item used to "manipulate a drug test" according to the search inventory.

The charges

Ewing's earlier drug charges include two Class A felonies for delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, one a Class C felony and one a Class A misdemeanor.

Following the search warrant, Ewing was charged with burglary, a Class B felony, and possession of a controlled substance, a Class C felony.

He also was charged Thursday with two additional counts of burglary, both Class C felonies.

Class A felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 fine. Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Class C felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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