Three Teams, 500+ Pills, One Snapchat Deception Leads to Six Arrests in Joint ND-MN Drug Bust
Authorities say they tracked more than 500 blue pills stamped with the label "A 215" between the five people, along with 40 grams of marijuana wax, over four pounds of marijuana and a SKS rifle
POLK COUNTY, Minn. — Authorities in North Dakota and Minnesota have arrested six people after following the trail of fentanyl laced oxycodone pills in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
Cody Stengl, 19, 20-year-old Robert Powell, 19-year-old Benjamin Gottberg, 22-year-old Joel Ryan all of East Grand Forks and 20-year-old Leah Anne Sourdif and 19-year-old Tucker Collings of Grand Forks are in custody.
Authorities said they tracked more than 500 blue pills stamped with the imprint A 215 between the five people, along with 40 grams of marijuana wax, over four pounds of marijuana and a SKS rifle.
They say testing on the pills by the Minnesota BCA confirmed they were oxycodone laced with fentanyl, a toxic drug that is linked to a number of overdose cases in the area.
“We’ve had fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the past but nothing to this magnitude of that many pills being laced with fentanyl,” said Lt. Rodney Hajicek with the Grand Forks Police Department.
Law enforcement urges all citizens to be aware of all substances or pills that may be linked to the pills in the case.
Investigation Details Released
The Polk County Attorney’s Office released details behind the investigation that began with a call for help at a Grand Forks home on March 22nd.
When first responders got to the scene, they found a man unresponsive and not breathing.
Responders were able to revive the man, who told them he may have snorted a crushed blue pill with the number A 215 imprinted on it.
On March 26th, authorities said they received a bulletin from the Orange County, New Jersey Sheriff’s Office saying they were investigating an unattended death in which they found a blue oxycodone pill with the imprint A 215.
New Jersey authorities also said the blue pill had been laced with fentanyl.
On March 28th, East Grand Forks Police, assisted by the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force, arrested 22-year-old Joel Ryan and 20-year-old Leah Sourdif.
Authorities said they found Ryan in possession of two blue pills with the imprint A 215.
They said they found seven of the pills in Sourdif’s bra, along with a small plastic baggie that had blue powder in it.
After questioning Ryan, authorities said it led them to 19-year-old Tucker Collings.
Ryan admitted to authorities that he paid Collings $200 for 10 pills, with another 10 pills given to him on “credit” so he could sell them and make a profit.
After serving a warrant at Collings’ home, officers said they found 160 blue pills with the imprint A 215 on them.
After questioning Collings, police said the 19-year-old told them Cody Stengl, who is also 19-years-old, brought them to his apartment.
Collings said he owed Stengl $3,100 for the product.
Officers said Collings then used Snapchat to let Stengl know he wanted more pills and that they were “selling like hotcakes.”
Officers said Stengl agreed to meet Collings and when leaving the home of 19-year-old Benjamin Gottberg, police conducted a traffic stop on Stengl’s vehicle.
Stengl was arrested but police say he is not cooperating with the investigation.
After serving a warrant at Stengl’s home where he lives with his parents, authorities said they discovered 200 blue pills with the imprint A 215 on them, other prescription pills not matching labels, nearly five pounds of marijuana and some hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Back at Gottberg’s home, police conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle seen leaving the house.
They arrested 20-year-old Robert Powell, who was driving the vehicle and his passenger, which turned out to be Benjamin Gottberg.
Authorities said Powell told them the pills were selling for $25 to $30 each but only knew that Gottberg was friends with Collings and Stengl and did not know them personally.
Authorities said Gottberg told them he knew about the pills but only because “a friend” had asked him to hold on to some in his vehicle at his home.
He would not tell police the name of the friend.
Authorities said, upon searching Gottberg’s vehicle, they found a locked safe and were able to open it because Gottberg gave them the key.
They said they found 100 pills with the imprint A 215 on them, along with a couple of other pills in a separate bag and marijuana.
When they searched Gottberg’s home, they said they found a SKS rifle, magazine, ammunition and drug paraphernalia.
Authorities said Gottberg told them he got the pills from Collings, who had asked him to hold on to them.
Police said the Minnesota BCA analyzed a sample of the pills taken from Ryan, Sourdif, Gottberg and Stengl and found that each pill with the imprint of A 215 was oxycodone laced with fentanyl.
Authorities said each of the East Grand Forks defendants have hearings scheduled for April 4.
Collings, who is from Grand Forks, has his first hearing set for May 3.
Law Enforcement’s Warning
Area law enforcement agencies are issuing a warning, especially to parents, to “be vigilant.”
They are asking people to watch for any unusual behaviors or suspicious substances they may come across.
They are asking people to be especially watchful for any blue pills imprinted with A 215 on them.
Fentanyl is a dangerous opiate narcotic that has been linked to several overdose deaths in the Red River Valley and across the nation.
Fentanyl can be taken on its own or, as in this case, combined with other drugs such as painkillers or heroin.