Men found with more than 44,000 fentanyl pills after traffic stop in Freeborn County
Published 3:16 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Assistant county attorney: Federal indictment is forthcoming
Two Minneapolis men are facing aggravated first-degree controlled substance crimes after authorities say they were reportedly found with more than 44,000 pills containing fentanyl that they brought to the state from California.
Savontray Orlando Dwayne Collins and Cortez Ananias Williams, both 23, were charged on Wednesday in Freeborn County District Court.
Williams faces two counts of the charge, while Collins faces one charge.
The charges were aggravated because both men had previous convictions of a violent crime and because the offense involved transferring a controlled substance across a state border into Minnesota.
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Assistant Freeborn County Attorney Abigail Lambert said a federal indictment for both men is forthcoming.
Court documents state a Hennepin County undercover investigator assigned to the Violent Offender Task Force had received information that Williams would be returning to Minnesota by car on Monday from a narcotics trafficking trip to Los Angeles.
A confidential informant told the investigator that Williams made regular trips to California and would return with between 50,000 and 100,000 fentanyl pills.
Investigators reportedly tracked the rental vehicle the men were driving by electronic surveillance.
Once the vehicle had arrived at the Kum N’ Go gas station near Diamond Jo Casino in Iowa, an investigator positively identified the driver as Williams and the passenger as Collins. They were photographed by the detective.
The vehicle continued north into Freeborn County until it was stopped by a Minnesota State Patrol trooper. Two other passengers were also in the vehicle.
Court documents state a search of the vehicle found suitcases in the trunk that matched suitcases the two men had been seen pulling in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport at the end of January. One contained about 1,106 grams fo pills that field-tested positive for fentanyl and about 995 grams that tested positive as containing cocaine.
A second suitcase contained about 2,228 grams of pills that-field tested positive for fentanyl.
Investigators estimate by weight that the total number of pills exceeded 44,000.
When arguing what the bail should be set at, Lambert argued that Collins had previous convictions of fifth-degree possession and possession of ammunition or a firearm by a person who previously had a crime of violence. She said he also had a history of failing to appear for his court hearings.
She said there have been a large number of overdoses in the community and throughout the United States.
“For an individual like this to have over 44,000 (pills) really gets to the core root of the problem,” she said, noting the drugs were not just for personal use.
Lambert said the public safety risk was high and whether he would return to court was questionable.
Public defender Christian Ponzetti said Collins had informed him he has strong ties to family in Minnesota and has one daughter and another on the way and also has a business. The lawyer asked for unconditional bail of $100,000 and conditional bail of $25,000.
Lambert gave a similar explanation for Williams but also noted his convictions of manslaughter and burglary.
Williams said he had never violated any conditions in his previous charges and had never missed court dates. He said his biggest concern was child care, as he takes care of two of his three children. He described the manslaughter incident as an accidental shooting and pointed out that he turned himself in willingly.
Freeborn County District Court Judge Christy Hormann ordered both men be held on unconditional bail of $500,000 or conditional bail of $250,000.
She said she had public safety and flight risk concerns, especially considering the nature of the charges.
“I don’t think I have to tell you or anyone else fentanyl is very dangerous,” Hormann said.
She was also worried about the men’s lack of ties to Freeborn County.
The charge of first-degree aggravated controlled substance crime carries a mandatory minimum of 86 months in prison. The maximum penalty is 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Both men are slated to next appear in court on Feb. 23.