Man sentenced to probation for 166 pounds of marijuana

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

A Columbia Heights man found with 166 pounds of marijuana in his pickup during a traffic stop on Interstate 35 north of Albert Lea in April 2022 was sentenced Tuesday to five years of supervised probation.

Tenzin Minlek

Tenzin Minlek, 44, pleaded guilty in May to one count of first-degree possession of marijuana as part of a plea agreement with the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office.

In court Tuesday, District Court Judge Ross Leuning issued a stay of adjudication, meaning if Minlek successfully completes his probation, the charge will be dismissed. His probation includes a series of conditions, including no use or possession of alcohol or controlled substances and no use or possession of firearms, among others.

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Minlek was pulled over April 19, 2022, by a Minnesota State Patrol trooper near mile marker 13 on I-35 after the trooper reportedly saw the pickup visibly slow as it passed the squad, dropping below the posted speed limit, and it had multiple large objects hanging from the rearview mirror. It also had tires extending beyond the fenders in the back, which is illegal per state statute. As the trooper caught up to the vehicle, he noted it was weaving to the right multiple times onto the shoulder line with both right-side tires.

Once the pickup pulled over, the trooper observed the two males in the truck both had freshly lit cigarettes, which is commonly done to mask odors of contraband when contacted by law enforcement, the criminal complaint stated. Air fresheners were also in the driver and passenger side air vents, and there were open chili pepper packs on the passenger side floor. Both men avoided eye contact, and the driver — identified as Minlek — was shaking from his chest area.

The trooper ultimately deployed a K-9 on the vehicle, and the dog alerted to the glove box inside the vehicle. Inside the glove box, troopers found multiple cigar packages with a rolled marijuana joint and raw buds of field-positive marijuana. The entire back of the truck under the topper was full of vacuum-sealed packages of suspected marijuana.

Troopers found the vehicle had 166 packages of marijuana that were each one pound.