By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Law enforcement authorities in Nebraska will likely have an extra $45,000 in their budget thanks to a traffic stop involving two Mankato men.
Medi Okugu Opiew, 21, has been in the Blue Earth County jail since he and several other people were caught with a half pound of marijuana April 8. Agents with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force arranged the delivery after a package containing the pot was delivered to another person.
Using a drug dog, investigators learned marijuana was in the package. When they delivered the drugs to the address on the package, the person who took it said he or she had been told it was coming and should deliver it to an apartment at 412 N. Second St. in Mankato.
That person, who agreed to go through with the delivery, was told not to open the package so he or she wouldn’t be liable for what was inside, according to a search warrant request used to justify the search at the apartment. Opiew and five other men were arrested at the apartment after the second delivery was made and they opened the package. There was allegedly $800 in cash and a digital scale in front of Opiew when he was arrested.
Much more cash than that was in a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer that Opiew was driving through Nebraska about three months ago, according to a report from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department in Lincoln. Opiew was stopped at about 9:20 p.m. Jan. 18 while driving west on I-80.
The deputy who stopped Opiew said he had been swerving and made in improper lane change. There also was a strong smell of burnt marijuana, which prompted a search of the SUV, the deputy reported.
A bag of marijuana and five marijuana cigarettes, totaling just under an ounce in weight, were found during the search, the report said. Deputies also found $45,430 in cash hidden in the bottom of the second-row seats in the Mountaineer. A police dog indicated there was a smell of drugs on the money.
Opiew and his passenger, 21-year-old James Antoine Moore, were arrested for suspicion of possession of drug money. Moore was also cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
Opiew and Moore perform in a Mankato rap group called Yung Ave Boyz.
No charges related to the money were ever filed against the men and they were released, Capt. Benjamin Houchin of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. However, the money stayed in Lincoln.
“Both parties claimed no knowledge of the money being in the vehicle, so it could not be returned to them,” Houchin said in an email. “For that reason we have started the forfeiture process.”
A week prior to the April 8 bust, Opiew had pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession charge stemming from an August incident where he sold a small amount of marijuana to an informant. He met the informant in a parking lot on the Minnesota State University campus Aug. 29 before Drug Task Force agents arrested him at the nearby Chipotle Mexican Grill. About 2 ounces of marijuana and $1,870 were found in his vehicle, according to that criminal complaint.
Opiew had been charged with selling marijuana, but that charge was dismissed in a plea agreement Feb. 11. The sentence April 1 said the drug possession charge also would be dismissed if Opiew successfully completes the requirements of his five-year probation agreement.