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Family ties, felony charges: Siblings connected through alleged meth deals

GRAND FORKS -- Four Grand Forks siblings accused of dealing methamphetamine may soon face federal charges, say defense attorneys representing them and their confederates.

All now face felonies in state district court that carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years, but the federal charges would mean stiffer potential penalties. One of the siblings' co-defendants has already appeared in federal court this month, according to a federal prosecutor.

Law enforcement officials allege that Don Keplin, 41; Dustin Keplin, 31; Desiree Keplin, 29; and Doree Keplin, 26, were involved in sale of meth to confidential informants. The meth is alleged to have been procured in Texas and the Twin Cities by two confederates.

Now, Don, Dustin and Doree are in Grand Forks County jail awaiting trial; Desiree bailed out.

A fifth sibling, Devin Keplin, 35, is also in jail on separate felony charges of theft and fleeing police from incidents in March unconnected to the alleged meth deals.

All five siblings have histories of crime, some drug-related but mostly misdemeanors.

The trailer court

According to prosecutors and court records, the following events led to the charges.

One of the drug deals took place Feb. 25 at a trailer court just east of South Columbia Road, according to a state court affidavit from Joel Lloyd, a sheriff's deputy with the regional drug task force.

A confidential informant told Lloyd that he could buy "an eight-ball," or one-eighth ounce of meth, from Don Keplin for $500. Keplin's source, a "guy from Texas" later identified as Matthew Garcia, 22, had arrived back in Grand Forks, the affidavit said.

The informant and an undercover agent, posing as a buyer, met Keplin at the entrance of the trailer court. Keplin drove the informant in a van to 2442 Estabrook, a home that Garcia shared with Desiree Keplin in the trailer court.

While Don Keplin went to the door to get meth from Garcia, the informant chatted with another passenger in the van, Doree Keplin, learning that Garcia is Desiree Keplin's boyfriend just returned from a meth run to Texas.

This conversation was monitored by drug task force agents nearby, who had wired the informant.

Don, Doree and the informant drove back to the undercover agent where the sale was completed.

Investigators searched Garcia's trailer home the next day, finding evidence of drugs and drug dealing, including that meth was within reach of Desiree Keplin's three small children, ages 7, 6 and 1. Don, Doree and Garcia were there, and were arrested.

A bad driver

Also on Feb. 25, Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Davidson arrested another confederate of the Keplins named Michael Sebjornson, 27.

Sebjornson, who knew about the meth deal at the trailer home, called the informant and the undercover agent on Don Keplin's cellphone and offered to sell two more eight-balls of meth for $1,000.

Later that day, Davidson stopped Sebjornson for bad driving near his parents' home in Grand Forks. A search of Sebjornson's car and his person revealed a baggie, similar to the "unique" pink, designer baggies Keplin used, containing an eighth-ounce of meth; several pain and amphetamine pills; 26 syringes; a list of drug customers; and a scale used to measure drug amounts, according to Davidson.

Ardoch source

Six weeks later, on April 9, Doree and Dustin Keplin met with another confidential informant. They sold him some meth at Dustin's trailer home at 5222 Fourth Ave. N. and again near Doree's apartment in the 3500 block of South 10th Street, according to investigators' affidavits.

Investigators monitored the deals by surveillance and listening to the wired informant.

After his arrest, Dustin said he got the meth from Jimmy Joe Burnett, 32, of Ardoch, who accompanied Dustin and Doree to deliver it.

Acting on a tip, investigators arrested Burnett on April 12 as he drove from Ardoch to Grand Forks to make a meth sale. They found in his vehicle baggies containing a quarter-ounce of meth and a scale used to measure meth.

Burnett later admitted to investigators that the meth "came from him and that Dustin assisted in getting it into Doree's hands." He said he and Dustin "worked together to distribute meth," according to the affidavit.

First fed charges

According to the federal indictment of Burnett, he's charged with conspiring with Don Keplin, Doree Keplin and Dustin Keplin, as well as four others who have not been named by federal prosecutors.

The conspiracy allegedly involved obtaining meth in Texas and the Twin Cities, and making drug deals on Feb. 25, March 11, and April 9 and 12.

Chris Myers, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Burnett, said he couldn't comment beyond confirming that Burnett appeared June 7 on drug conspiracy charges.

Burnett's attorney, Henry Howe, said Garcia, Desiree Keplin and Sebjornson are not listed on the indictment.

But Garcia's attorney, Darla Schumann, confirmed in a court filing that he, too, faces federal charges.

Defense attorneys representing Desiree and Dustin Keplin and Sebjornson say they have heard their clients will also be charged in federal court.

For now, the Keplins other than Devin Keplin face a raft of serious state felony charges.

Don and Desiree Keplin, Garcia and Sebjornson are charged with possessing meth with intent to deliver, among other charges. Doree and Dustin Keplin are charged with making or distributing meth, among other charges.