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Morris-area men face cocaine charges

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Three Morris-area men face charges in Stevens County District Court related to the sale of cocaine.

Refugio Hernandez Muniz, 51, of Donnelly is charged with first-degree felony sale of 10 grams or more of cocaine within a 90-day period. Also known as "Kookie," Muniz faces penalties of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of $1 million.

Muniz was arrested Feb. 4, as was Leonard James Larson, 50, of Morris, who is charged with fifth-degree possession of cocaine. Larson faces penalties of five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.

Jose DeJesus Rangel Rodriguez, 20, of Morris, is charged with second-degree sale of three grams or more of cocaine. He also faces a charge of third-degree sale of a narcotic. Also known as "Chuey," Rodriguez faces penalties of 25 years in prison and/or a fine of $500,000 on the second-degree sale charge, and penalties of 20 years and/or a $250,000 fine on the third-degree narcotics charge. Rodriguez was arrested Feb. 19.

Muniz and Rodriguez are in custody pending court appearances.

Muniz' bail was set at $75,000 unconditional and $40,000 conditional, and his next court appearance has not been scheduled, according to Stevens County Attorney Charles Glasrud.

Rodriguez' bail is $50,000 unconditional and $10,000 conditional, and he is scheduled to appear in court on March 23.

Larson was charged on a summons, not a warrant, and was released on his own recognizance. His next court appearance also is pending, Glasrud said.

Additional arrests related to the investigation could be coming, Beauregard said.

The arrests are the result of a six-month investigation by the Morris Police Department, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The investigators worked with "Confidential Reliable Informants" to make drug buys and build the case, Beauregard said.

"That's what puts us over the hump," Beauregard said. "When you start making buys."

According to the complaint against Muniz, an informant allegedly purchased 7.5 grams of cocaine from Muniz on Nov. 17, 2008. An informant allegedly purchased 14.8 grams of cocaine from Muniz on Jan. 21.

Larson was arrested at his Morris apartment allegedly in possession of cocaine.

Rodriguez allegedly sold 3-1/2 grams of cocaine to a confidential informant on Oct. 27. Beauregard said immigration authorities also are questioning Rodriguez.

Cocaine's popularity is surging again, coinciding with a decline in methamphetamine offenses, Beauregard said.

"We're seeing a lot of cocaine in our area again," Beauregard said.

Local law enforcement has increased attention paid to drug cases, he said.

"We've really committed to working more drug cases the last couple of years and this is a result of that," Beauregard said. "We're working more cases, working with other agencies, and we're committed to continuing that."