The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 7, 2014

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger aims to help on narcotics, violent cases

Heroin, sex trafficking cases are a priority

ST. PETER — The newly appointed U.S. Attorney for Minnesota visited Nicollet County attorneys and police officers Monday as part of an effort to strengthen collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement and county attorney agencies in Minnesota. The prosecutor is touring several regions of Minnesota.

Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer said Monday is the first time anyone from Minnesota's top law enforcement office has personally visited the area in her 20 years of service. She said the landmark visit shows the importance of coordination within Minnesota's legal system.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, a former New Jersey native who established himself in Minnesota, was confirmed to his new position in February. He was a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Minnesota who specialized in white-collar crime. He has also defended several of Minnesota's major corporations in similar cases.

He said he wants to strengthen the process of working with all of the state's legal branches down to the local level. He said he wants to help them grow their ability to tackle narcotic cases and violent crime cases.

His office's main focus is on heroin trafficking cases. Luger said the growing problems with heroin use and addiction spring from failures in prior years to combat the national growth of prescription drug abuse, especially with prescription pain killers. He said Mexican cartels are taking advantage of the situation by flooding the U.S. with cheap but addictive forms of heroin, which provide a similar high.

"We are in really early stages of (this crime's growth) compared to other states. We're trying to tackle it before it becomes deeply embedded in our communities," Luger said.

He cited the recent "Ramirez case" as the most important Minnesota court case in recent years. The case deals with three Mexican cartel enforcers that flew to Minnesota, kidnapped two teenagers and tortured them for hours in a quiet St. Paul suburb.

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