Two men face federal charges in Itasca County heroin case
Two men charged earlier this month with transporting large quantities of heroin from Detroit to northern Minnesota are now facing federal charges.
Dwayne Jones Jr., 30, of Detroit, and Nicholas Virgil Blackbear, 28, of Bemidji, were charged last week in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute 100 or more grams of heroin.
The two men were arrested earlier this month during a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 169 in Itasca County after authorities received a tip that they were transporting heroin. The Itasca County Attorney's Office reported that about 130 grams of suspected heroin was found in a backpack in the trunk of the vehicle.
Jones allegedly told authorities that he had made about eight trips between Detroit and Itasca County over a year-and-a-half period, bringing 50 to 100 grams of heroin for sale each time.
Blackbear told authorities that he was contacted by Jones, who had asked for a ride north from Minneapolis. Blackbear allegedly said he knew Jones was transporting heroin, and that Blackbear would receive about 2 grams of heroin for arranging the ride and a place to stay.
Itasca County Attorney Jack Muhar said the decision to charge the men federally was made primarily because of stiffer penalties that probably would be imposed if they are convicted.
A conviction on the conspiracy charge carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a statutory maximum of 40 years.
Muhar said state charges will be dropped against the two men, while his office will continue to prosecute a third defendant, 20-year-old Joshua Morgan Hunter of Grand Rapids, in connection with the case.
Hunter is due back in State District Court on April 11 on a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree controlled substance crime. Jones and Blackbear do not have future dates scheduled in federal court.