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Heroin seizure leads to arrest of Fargo man

FARGO -- A man who reported being carjacked by three people last week in Fargo was arrested Tuesday night in connection with what Fargo police are describing as the city's largest heroin seizure in recent memory -- roughly 300 to 500 doses of the drug, at a street value of about $18,000.

The seizure of 12 grams of white powdered heroin came about as a result of the carjacking investigation and a joint narcotics investigation with the Moorhead (Minn.) Police Department, Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said.

"We haven't seen anything close to this in the last decade as far as this large of a seizure," he said.

Through their investigation, police gathered information that led them to identify a vehicle believed to be involved in illegal drug distribution, Vettel said.

The vehicle, a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse that Vettel said is registered to the alleged carjacking victim, Wyatt Cullen Brown, was located Tuesday night at Brown's workplace in the 3500 block of Interstate Boulevard.

A police dog sniffed the car and alerted to the presence of drugs, which led to a warranted search that yielded heroin, the prescription drug hydromorphone, a digital scale and $1,300 cash, Vettel said.

Vettel said heroin is usually sold to users in amounts of one-tenth of a gram each, each of which represents three or four doses.

At $100 to $150 per tenth of a gram, it's a relatively cheap drug, Vettel said. And he agreed that one cause of its recent popularity could be traced to people who are addicted to prescription opiates, who now find it increasingly harder to buy prescription drugs on the street.

Some prescription opiates can go for $50 per pill, and heroin, with a similar chemical makeup, is a less-expensive alternative.

"We've done an awesome job of combating and making prescription medication extremely difficult to get your hands on," Vettel said. "It's certainly a theory that's out there. (But) I don't think we can change our course."

Brown, 21, who has Fargo and Moorhead addresses, was arrested at about 10:30 p.m. on suspicion of heroin possession with intent to distribute and possession of a Schedule II narcotic, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, Vettel said. Brown did not have a prescription for the hydromorphone, he said.

Brown was charged Wednesday in Cass County District Court with one count of Class A felony possession of heroin with intent to deliver, one count of possession of hydromorphone and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, both Class C felonies.

Vettel said investigators continue to look into Brown's claim that he was assaulted by three men after being forced from his car on the night of Aug. 18 in the 400 block of 21st Street South.

Vettel has previously said officers encountered Brown at a service station in Fargo and asked him about what appeared to be an injury to his head. Brown reportedly told the officers he was driving his vehicle when a man with a pistol walked into the path of his vehicle, forcing him to stop.

Brown said another man pulled him from his vehicle and struck him in the head with an object. He said he was robbed of his cash and that he saw three men running away.

Vettel said he couldn't comment on whether the carjacking incident may have been drug-related.

"What we can state is we've had some concerns about what exactly happened there," he said.

The heroin bust is significant because police have intelligence that heroin distribution is on the rise in the metro area, he said.

"Certainly, this does show we're doing everything we can to prevent heroin from getting a foothold here in the city of Fargo," he said.