15 arrested in drug sting - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Chris Hrapsky

15 arrested in drug sting

AUSTIN, MN (FOX 47) -- More than a dozen people are feeling the burn from a police sting operation in Austin.  And one of the 15 people charged is an Austin-based bail-bonds business owner.

According to the Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi, this is the largest sting operation she has been involved with, and they did it using an undercover informant.

It was Friday afternoon when the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force, armed with a connected informant, began its sting operation.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi says, "We have to use the people that were originally arrested for other things to get into these groups."

According to police, it started just after noon when 39-year-old Jon Luna was arrested at a gas station on Oakland Avenue for a marijuana deal.

An hour later, Steven Dittrich was arrested and charged for allegedly buying two ounces of cocaine at the Austin K-Mart.

A half-hour after that, just down the street, two more men were arrested for allegedly buying a large amount of cocaine in an Aldi parking lot.

Amazi says, "You move them out of there, you go to another location, you set up another deal, you get them in jail and you're back out there."

In all, 10 people were arrested over the weekend, and five others were arrested earlier in the month using the same informant.

One of the people was 41-year-old John Michael Howe, a bail bondsman in Austin who has worked with the sheriff's office before.

Amazi says, "He's posted many bonds in our judicial district, and obviously this is quite a blow."

According to police files, Howe has been charged with first-degree drug possession for allegedly taking one ounce of cocaine as a payment for a $3,000 debt that the informant supposedly owed him.

Amazi says, "You know you would like to say you are making a difference, and you hope to some extent that you are, but truly there's still a lot of dope out there."

Amazi says many of the buyers didn't use money, but their cars to pay for the drugs.

She says the county confiscated around ten vehicles during the sting.

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