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3 arrested in record Clay County fentanyl seizure

The street value of the drugs seized is estimated to be $37,000.

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Suspected fentanyl pills seized on April 27, 2022, in Clay County.
Moorhead Police Department
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MOORHEAD — Three people have been arrested in connection with a record fentanyl seizure in Clay County, and law enforcement officials said Wednesday, April 27, that they are dedicated to stopping the flow of drugs into the the area.

"We do not want this in our county," Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the Clay County Law Enforcement Center.

According to Empting and other law enforcement officials:

Investigators with the Moorhead Police Department learned that individuals were frequently traveling to the Minneapolis area to obtain drugs to distribute in the Moorhead area. Around 2:05 a.m. Wednesday, police working with the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Cass County Drug Task Force and Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to conduct two traffic stops on Interstate 94 in Clay County.

Both vehicles tried to flee from deputies, with one chase involving speeds of up to 120 mph, according to Empting, who said both vehicles were eventually stopped. During searches of the suspects and vehicles, officers found 1,091 suspected fentanyl pills and approximately 20 grams of suspected methamphetamine.

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The street value of the drugs seized is estimated to be $37,000, officials said.

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Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe, along with Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting and Minnesota Highway Patrol Captain Brian Cheney, discuss the large fentanyl seizure in Clay County on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

During the investigation, ammunition was located, and one of the fleeing vehicles was identified as a stolen car, officials said.

At Wednesday's news conference, Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe identified the individuals arrested in connection with the stops as Larry McClendon, 52; Raphael Murphy, 36; and Cameron Desjarlais, 32, all with no permanent address.

The three are all expected to face drug-related charges, including first-degree controlled substance counts.

This marks the third significant drug seizure in the Moorhead area in the last month, according to Moorhead police, who said two people were arrested in March after investigators intercepted a shipment of powdered fentanyl transported on I-94. The drugs seized in that incident had a street value of $15,000.

On April 12, two people were arrested on I-94 with a shipment of fentanyl pills, methamphetamine and marijuana with a street value of $20,000, police said.

Monroe said fentanyl overdoses are on the rise, noting that in 2019 the police department documented five overdoses, with two deaths connected to overdoses.

He said in 2021 the department documented 63 overdoses and eight related deaths, and so far this year the department has seen 12 overdoses and two deaths.

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Many overdose go unreported, he said.

Monroe added that despite the recent arrests and drug seizures ,authorities "have no clue" how much is still getting through.

"Our biggest fear with this is the level of lethality" fenanyl represents, Monroe said.

He said one thing that is working in law enforcement's favor is the close cooperation between agencies on both sides of the Red River, which he said has been a crucial factor in recent seizures and arrests.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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