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Search turns up 134 pounds of suspected pot in St. Croix County

Authorities unloaded more than 134 pounds of suspected marijuana after executing a search warrant last week at a St. Croix County storage unit. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
A portion of the suspected marijuana seized at Houlton storage unit was displayed after being discovered by authorities from Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

St. Croix County authorities called the discovery of more than 100 pounds of suspected marijuana at a Houlton storage unit the largest drug seizure they have handled in recent memory.

The suspected drugs -- 129 packages each totaling about 1 pound -- were found Sept. 8 after authorities from Minnesota and Wisconsin executed a search warrant at Badger State Storage on Main Street in Houlton. The warrant was served after investigators arrested the Stillwater man and confiscated a key from him that opened the storage unit.

“That was an extremely large seizure that we normally don’t come across,” St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Scott Knudson said.

The suspect, 44-year-old Karl R. Heinrichs, was charged Sept. 9 in St. Croix County Circuit Court with felony THC possession with intent to deliver. He was being held Wednesday in Washington County jail without bail while awaiting transfer to St. Croix County, according to jail staff.

Heinrichs’ initial court appearance had not yet been set by Wednesday.

Knudson called the bust “one of the biggest in recent memory” and said the Heinrichs arrest was significant.

“It appeared that he played an active role in drug activity in the area,” he said.

According to a criminal complaint:

Investigators from the Washington (Minn.) County Narcotics Task Force alerted St. Croix County deputies Sept. 8 that they were investigating Heinrichs and learned he was supposed to be picking up 200 pounds of pot. Task force members followed him across the Stillwater bridge into the Houlton area, but lost track of him on Highway 64.

The investigators stopped at Badger Storage and spoke with the manager, who said Heinrichs rented a storage unit there. Authorities went to the unit, where they reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside it.

Minnesota task force members connected with St. Croix County sheriff’s deputies, who helped draft a search warrant for the unit. Heinrichs was arrested in Stillwater at one point during the incident and a key was discovered that authorities used to open the Houlton storage unit.

Authorities opened the unit and found six garbage bags labeled with the names of suspected marijuana strains. The bags contained 129 individual packages weighing a total of more than 134 pounds.

The substance in the packages tested positive for THC.

Knudson said there is an active investigation probing the source of the marijuana.

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Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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