Woman sentenced to probation for meth-in-teddy bears case

Published 2:57 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

An Albert Lea woman was sentenced to up to 10 years of probation and stayed prison time Monday in Freeborn County District for receiving packages in the mail containing methamphetamine concealed in teddy bears.

Marivel Ramos

Marivel Ramos, 46, will not have to serve a 48-month prison sentence unless she violates her probation. 

Ramos had initially been charged with first-degree methamphetamine possession but the charge was amended to a second-degree controlled substance crime when she pleaded guilty in October. 

In court Monday, District Court Judge Ross Leuning said Ramos received a substantial benefit through her negotiated plea deal, and that under the initial charge, she would have seen a mandatory commitment to prison. 

“You should not discount how close you were to going to prison,” Leuning said.

Ramos was charged in February 2021 as part of an investigation by the United States Postal Service Investigation Unit, the South Central Drug Investigation Unit and local authorities. As part of a narcotics investigation, agents of the South Central Drug Investigation Unit confirmed with Postal Service investigators that suspicious packages were mailed from California to Ramos’s address in Albert Lea. She reportedly had packages delivered every 10 to 20 days for several months.

Court documents state three packages that were set to be delivered Sept. 18, 2020, were intercepted with a federal search warrant on Sept. 17, and each was found to contain a teddy bear with what tested positive as meth. They weighed a combined 10.5 pounds.

Authorities set up a controlled delivery, replacing the meth with rock salt mixed with about 60 to 65 grams of meth added in each before putting them back in the mail, and then on Sept. 18, a Postal Service investigator delivered the packages containing the teddy bears with the rock salt and meth mixture to Ramos’s address, after which she reportedly picked them up and placed them in her SUV.

Leuning said the case has troubled him a lot, and though it was clear that Ramos wasn’t the major operator of the drug operation in this case — Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said Ramos received the shipments and gave them to another person who then moved the drugs to buyers — she needed to see how significant her actions were. 

“If you would sit in this courtroom for just a month, you’d see how damaging methamphetamine is to people in this community,” the judge said. 

He referenced types of cases he deals with regularly, as well as children he has had to take away from parents — all because of methamphetamine. 

“You should reflect on the ripple effects your behavior had,” he said. 

Leuning said in reading the pre-sentence investigation report, it was clear that Ramos understood the seriousness of her actions. Though she was a victim in some ways, he described her as “a voluntary victim.”

“You let them manipulate you into your involvement,” he said. 

In addition to her probationary term, Ramos will not be able to vote until she completes probation and her rights are restored and will not be able to possess or use firearms. 

Though he said he did not think Ramos was a drug user herself, he also ordered a chemical dependency evaluation and ordered Ramos to comply with any recommendations that came out of the evaluation.