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Agents seize over 3,000 fentanyl pills after traffic stop in Faribault

Two people were charged with crimes related to drug and firearm possession in Rice County.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 5:20 PM CDT|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT
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FARIBAULT, Minn. (KEYC) — Two people were charged with crimes related to drug and firearm possession in Rice County.

The Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force reported that it received information from multiple sources in April and May that 31-year-old Christopher James Payne was involved in the sales of fentanyl and illegally in possession of firearms in the city of Faribault.

On May 13, officers with the Faribault Police Department conducted a traffic stop after the driver of a 2007 Cadillac STS committed a stop sign violation. After stopping the vehicle, officers also noticed that the driver’s vehicle registration was expired.

Officers identified Payne as the driver of the vehicle during the traffic stop, who admitted to police that he had a canceled driver’s license.

The passenger during the traffic stop was identified as 31-year-old Kaley Maria Wethern, who Payne said was his girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle.

A K9 from the Faribault Police Department was deployed and conducted a sniff of the vehicle and was alerted on the back passenger side door. Upon searching the vehicle, officers located a backpack in the back seat that contained a 9-millimeter handgun with a round in the chamber, a glass smoking pipe with suspected methamphetamine residue, and several documents that contained Payne’s name.

Officers continued to search other backpacks and located a plastic container with a green lid that contained a large quantity of suspected blue and gray compressed fentanyl pills.

Authorities seized 1.6 pounds (767.52 grams) of fentanyl from the container and around 3,000 compressed pills in total. Agents tested multiple pills of different colors, which tested presumptive positive for fentanyl.

(Le Sueur County Sheriff's Office)

Payne and Wethern were then placed under arrest for controlled substance crimes.

On May 14, agents executed a search warrant at the 500 block of 6th Street NW in Faribault, where Payne and Wethern reside. During the execution of the search warrant, agents located a small amount of methamphetamine in a bedroom that they believe was occupied by Payne and Wethern.

Agents also located a letter that was written by Wethern that acknowledged that Payne was providing controlled substances to others and that those individuals may need Narcan, which is used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Agents interviewed Wethern, and she provided a post-Miranda statement advising that she handled and carried the container with the fentanyl pills, so her DNA and fingerprints would likely be on it. She also advised law enforcement officials that she was aware of the firearm in the vehicle, but that it belongs to Payne.

Wethern also acknowledged writing the letter that was found at the residence.

Payne has since been charged in Rice County with first-degree aggravated controlled substance crimes and for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Wethern is charged with first-degree and fifth-degree controlled substance crimes.

Fentanyl pills typically sell individually for approximately $25 per pill. The street value of the seized fentanyl pills, if broken down and sold individually, would be $75,000.

“Over the past few years, fentanyl overdose deaths have been on the rise. I’m proud of the continued effort and teamwork by the Task Force Agents, Patrol Divisions and local detectives working together to take these dangerous drugs out of our community. This significant seizure undoubtedly saved lives in Rice and Le Sueur County and others across the state of Minnesota,” CRDVOTF Commander Scott O’Brien said.

“Fentanyl overdose deaths are at an all-time high in our local communities, and those around the country. The work the task force agents and our local deputies and officers do daily is so important in preventing overdose deaths, but we can’t do it alone. We need our friends and neighbors to report suspected drug dealing to us, and we are thankful for those that help us do our jobs. We also ask that if you or someone you know is battling addiction please try to get help,” said Mark Elliott, Northfield police chief and CRDVOTF board chair.

Rice County residents can contact the Mobile Opioid Support Team at (507) 299-0204 or online at RiceCountyCMHC.org/MOST. Additionally, residents can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or online here.

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