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5 face federal meth charges in Grand Forks: Investigators: Twin Cities dealers imported Mexican drugs to sell in North Dakota

GRAND FORKS — A Twin Cities woman, her sister and three people from the Grand Forks region face federal charges of dealing methamphetamine, with each charge carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Jacqueline Weiss, 22, and Jennifer Weiss, 25, along with Brent Maurstad, 39, Lerna Lea Paulson, 45, and Michael Schiebe, 33, are accused of conspiring to sell at least 50 grams, or 3 ounces, of pure meth in Grand Forks and Walsh counties.

The sisters, who allegedly bought the drug from “Mexicans” in the Twin Cities, were arrested at a Grand Forks hotel in December, according to court records. They allegedly had 11 ounces of meth hidden inside a heater.

Jacqueline Weiss, of Zimmerman, Minn., pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court in Grand Forks.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal told her that, if convicted, she faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison.

Jennifer Weiss, also of Zimmerman; Maurstad, of Drayton, and Paulson, of Grafton, pleaded not guilty last month. Schiebe, of Thompson, apparently has not appeared on the charge.

The five have criminal records, the Weisses in Minnesota and the others in North Dakota. All are slated for trial April 22 in Grand Forks, Senechal said.

Profits revealed

According to investigators’ affidavit of probable cause, an informant revealed that, over the past year, Jennifer Weiss had sold the informant, on about 10 occasions, amounts of about 8 ounces of meth.

The informant had been working in and near Grafton with agents of the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force, which operates in Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties.

Weiss charged $1,500 to $1,700 per ounce and each deal netted her $5,000 or more in profit, the informant told investigators. In November, the informant gave Weiss a 1999 Volkswagen Passat as partial payment for 10 ounces of meth.

Working with the task force, the informant arranged to buy more meth from the Weiss sisters, who live in Zimmerman, just northwest of Minneapolis.

The sisters were arrested Dec. 13 at the Knights Inn in Grand Forks. They had with them 11 ounces of meth concealed inside an electric heater they carried into the motel in a cardboard box, according to investigators.

The 11 ounces allegedly included pure meth mixed with other substances. A court official said federal felony charges deal with pure meth amounts by weight.

The informant told investigators that Jennifer Weiss had said she would sell the 11 ounces for a total up to $18,700, keeping $12,000 in profit for herself. She had explained that she received large amounts of meth every few weeks from a “Mexican” in the Twin Cities who worked with a drug dealer in Mexico.

When they were arrested, Jennifer Weiss told investigators her sister was aware of the meth in the heater, but was not involved in the drug deal. Weiss said she did not have a driver’s license, so her sister served as her driver.

But investigators said as they followed the sisters on Interstate 29 into Grand Forks, and Jennifer Weiss was at the wheel.

At the moment investigators identified themselves to the sisters, Jacqueline Weiss dropped the cardboard box, said it wasn’t hers and that she knew nothing of the meth being inside the heater, investigators allege.