Local/state briefs

25 face federal, state charges in Duluth-area heroin ring

DULUTH (AP) — Twenty-five people were arrested on federal and state charges in connection with a heroin ring that distributed the opioid in the Duluth area.

Twelve of those arrested face federal charges for their alleged roles in the conspiracy. A 46-count indictment against them was announced Thursday.

Federal prosecutors say the main drug distributor was 33-year-old Carlos Coleman of Apple Valley. They allege he brought the heroin from Chicago to the Twin Cities and to the Twin Ports area, where it was then distributed by others in the network.

Court records do not list an attorney to comment on Coleman’s behalf. He and others are making their initial court appearances this week in U.S. District Court in Duluth.

Prosecutors said the network operated over the last year.

Charges: Rejected man urinated in co-worker’s water bottle

VADNAIS HEIGHTS (AP) — A Minnesota restaurant worker is accused of urinating in a co-worker’s water bottle after the woman rejected his advances.

Prosecutors charged 47-year-old Conrrado Cruz Perez of Minneapolis with adulterating a substance with bodily fluids.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported deputies were called to the restaurant in Vadnais Heights in October after an employee reported a baker was harassing her.

According to the complaint, the woman noticed several times that the water bottle she keeps at work tasted like urine.

The complaint said Cruz Perez denied tampering with the woman’s water bottle, but later admitted to once urinating in the bottle because the restaurant was too busy for him to use the bathroom after investigators suggested they might conduct DNA testing on the container.

His attorney declined comment.

Ex-Starkey executive, associate guilty in embezzlement case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former executive at hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories and a business associate were convicted Thursday in a $20 million embezzlement case, while two other defendants were acquitted.

The Star Tribune reported former Starkey Laboratories president Jerry Ruzicka and W. Jeff Taylor, former president of Starkey supplier Sonion, were found guilty on fraud charges for their roles in the scheme. Prosecutors said the two men conspired to steal more than $15 million in stocks, bonuses and commissions from Starkey, owner Bill Austin, and Sonion over 10 years.

Defense attorneys argued Ruzicka had Austin’s permission to conduct business on his behalf. Austin testified Ruzicka didn’t have the authority to make all the deals he did.

Before the verdict was read, Ruzicka said: “Maybe this will go the way it’s supposed to.” He and his attorney had no comment following the verdict.

Former Starkey human resources chief Larry Miller and business associate Larry Hagen were acquitted by a federal jury on Thursday. Two other defendants — former finance chief Scott Nelson and former subsidiary president Jeffrey Longtain — pleaded guilty earlier and testified during the nearly six-week trial.

The government spent a year investigating Austin’s claims that something was amiss at his company. Austin had been searching for information about Ruzicka’s possible disloyalty, but instead found evidence of embezzlement and called authorities. Prosecutors said the men used various tactics to steal the money, including controlling a web of sham companies.

Among other things, prosecutors said Ruzicka and Taylor controlled a dummy entity that Taylor said was a Starkey affiliate in order to get discounted pricing on hearing aid components. Ruzicka and Taylor then bought the discounted products and later re-sold them to other manufacturers to get illicit profits.

U.S. Attorney Gregory Brooker said in a statement that the men were motivated by “pure greed.”

GOP lawmakers plot big changes to Minnesota’s IT agency

ST. PAUL (AP) — Republicans who control the Legislature are charting major changes to how the state handles information technology.

Minnesota’s Information Technology Services agency has been in the spotlight following the botched rollout of the new driver’s registration system called MNLARS. It’s the second major technological flop under Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, after MNsure’s bungled launch in 2013.

Senate Republicans on Thursday proposed dismantling the technology agency called MN.IT. The agency was created in 2011 to centralize the state’s technology services.

GOP Sen. Julie Rosen said the state has a bad track record in software development. House Republicans introduced a bill Thursday that would require the agency to seek out existing software before building its own.

Lawmakers have not yet authorized $10 million in funding the state says it needs to fix MNLARS.

Woman shot by trooper charged with attempted murder

MOORHEAD (AP) — A Milwaukee woman is charged with attempted murder after allegedly trying to kill the Minnesota state trooper who tried to help her after a crash on Interstate 94.

Prosecutors allege 30-year-old Melody Gray held a 9 mm handgun to the head of Trooper Mark Peterson and tried to pull the trigger after the car she was driving spun out of control near Moorhead Monday. The gun did not fire.

Peterson was trying to handcuff Gray’s passenger, 29-year-old Domonique Crayton, also of Milwaukee. The car was reported stolen in Wisconsin.

The trooper shot Gray in the arm. She was taken to a hospital in Fargo, North Dakota. Crayton remains jailed.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says Gray and Crayton have outstanding warrants out of Milwaukee for kidnapping and other charges.

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