The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 25, 2013

3 arrested after month-long cocaine sting

By Dan Nienaber
The Free Press

MANKATO — Three people have been arrested in a month-long drug sting where an informant allegedly bought cocaine in the YMCA parking lot and other Mankato locations.

Two of the people arrested, a rural Blue Earth County couple, were taken into custody Wednesday while they were returning from a possible drug deal in the Twin Cities. Agents with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force had secretly placed a GPS tracking device on their vehicle and decided to stop 39-year-old Brandon Lee Hensley and 30-year-old Sook Ja Nam north of St. Peter on Highway 169.

Hensley was arrested and taken to the Blue Earth County Jail. Nam was also taken to the Justice Center, but kept in an interview room until a task force agent could talk to her because she had a child with her, according to criminal complaints filed Friday.

When the agent arrived, a female Mankato police officer told him Nam had turned over a bag of cocaine that weighed about a half ounce. The officer and a jailer were about to interview Nam when Nam removed the bag from her pants, the Mankato officer reported.

An informant working with the task force had been buying cocaine from Hensley and another man, 33-year-old Miguel Antonio Lemus of Mankato, since Jan. 2, the complaints said. More than a half ounce of the drug was allegedly purchased during five separate transactions that spanned through Tuesday. The informant would contact Lemus for the  cocaine buys, which were generally about 3 to 4 grams for $200 each, then Lemus would call Hensley to supply the drug, the complaints said.

The first deal took place in the YMCA parking lot. Then there were two sales made at the Shell gas station on the north edge of Mankato on Third Avenue and one sale made at Lemus’ residence in the 1400 block of North Fourth Street.

During the fifth buy, Tuesday, Lemus allegedly parked his Jeep at the YMCA and told the informant to put $200 in the SUV’s center console. When Hensley left his residence off Highway 68 near Judson a short time later, task force agents had an undercover Blue Earth County sheriff’s deputy follow him. The agents reported they watched as Hensley pulled into the YMCA parking lot, get out of his vehicle and reach into the Jeep. Lemus called the informant a short time later and said “his guy” had put the cocaine under a water bottle in a cup holder, the complaints said.

Sometime during Tuesday’s deal Lemus also allegedly told the informant his “source” was out of cocaine and would be picking up a new supply in a day or two. So when agents saw the GPS was showing Hensley’s vehicle was in the Twin Cities Wednesday, they made the decision to make the stop north of St. Peter, the complaints said.

After being taken into custody, Nam allegedly told the agent she and Hensley have been living together for about 10 years. She said he picked her up at work in Mankato Wednesday evening because she knew her way around the Twin Cities and Hensley needed help finding Old Shakopee Road, the complaints said. After they arrived in that area and parked, someone walked up to their vehicle and talked to Hensley through the window, Nam said. She told the agent she wasn’t paying attention to what was happening.

Hensley gave Nam the half ounce bag of cocaine and told her to put it in her pants when he realized he was being pulled over by a state trooper, the complaints said.

Hensley and Lemus are each facing eight felony charges for selling cocaine, including two charges for selling cocaine near a school because West High School is next to the YMCA. Nam has been charged with one felony count each of cocaine sales and cocaine possession. All three made their first appearance in court Friday.