1,200 doses of fentanyl discovered
October 28, 2022
A call from a concerned citizen last month led to the arrest of a 19-year-old Cloquet man, after police officers allegedly found more than 1,200 fentanyl pills in the BMW car he was driving.
James Daniel Randa was charged with aggravated first-degree controlled substance crime with a firearm and first-degree drug possession, both felonies, in Carlton County Court earlier this month.
Randa was also charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor.
Carlton County attorney Lauri Ketola said field testing showed the presence of fentanyl in the pills. Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid. A dose as small as three grains of rice can be lethal.
“Fentanyl is so potent that any one of those pills has the potential to be lethal,” Ketola said. “We’ve had two overdose deaths of teenagers the last six months, and this is exactly how they’re dying.”
To be clear, no one has been charged with selling the lethal drugs to the teens, but Ketola wants people to be aware that fentanyl is a threat, and kids are trying the highly addictive drug as well.
On the street, one of the pills would sell for about $5, Ketola said, and they are made to look like a prescription Oxycodone pill: small, round, blue pills marked with M and 30. However, fentanyl pills can come in a rainbow of colors.
Ketola said the pills are even more dangerous because they make taking drugs easy to do and easy to hide: there are no injections and track marks, no smell for parents to identify, just a pill.
The rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths is not unique to Carlton County. According to a new report issued this summer by the Minnesota Department of Health, most overdose deaths in 2021 were associated with fentanyl. The 1,286 overdose deaths reported to MDH last year represented a 22% increase from the 2020 total.
For the first time since 2014, there was a larger-percentage increase in overdose deaths in non-metro Minnesota (23 percent) than in the seven-county metropolitan area (20 percent).
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm wants to expand programs that make it easier for people to access naloxone — a medication that can reverse overdoses and save lives.
Ketola is happy the pills are off the street.
“Twelve hundred doses is twelve hundred potential deaths,” she said. “And each pill costs a little bit less than a latte.”
Although the traffic stop involving Randa was made on Sept. 25, a warrant was issued for Randa on Oct. 13 and quashed a day later, after he was taken into custody.
According to the criminal complaint, a concerned citizen called 911 on Sept. 25, reporting what they believed was a suspected drug deal at Pinehurst Park and giving a license plate number and describing a silver BMW. Roughly 10 minutes later, a Fond du Lac police officer observed a vehicle matching the description near the intersection of Reservation and Jarvi roads, and began to follow it. The driver pulled over and the officer pulled in behind the car and activated his lights.
Randa was the sole occupant of the vehicle. While he told police they could look in the trunk, he did not give permission to search the interior of the vehicle. He also said he had recently purchased the car and did not have the title transferred. According to the criminal complaint, police told him he was free to leave the scene, so he walked down the road to be picked up.
In the meantime, Fond du Lac K-9 Storm arrived and indicated the presence of a controlled substance in the car. Officers allegedly found two blue pills in a small bag in the front seat, and a baggie filled with close to 1,200 pills inside a backpack in the back seat. The backpack also allegedly contained more than $7,150 and a loaded handgun. The pills field-tested positive for the presence of fentanyl. Ketola said Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension testing has not yet been conducted and will ultimately provide details on what the pills contained.
“Part of what makes these pills so dangerous is that it is impossible for the average person to know how much fentanyl is in each pill,” she said.
A non-cash bond was set at $100,000. Randa has an omnibus hearing scheduled for December.