Bondsman caught in sting

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Local bail bondsman John Howe was among 10 charged in a reverse sting operation Friday and Saturday that involved a confidential informant working with authorities from multiple regional and local jurisdictions.

Though several criminal complaints have yet to be issued, five of the defendants, including Howe, have already appeared in court, according to Austin Det. Brian Kruger:

Bail for 41-year-old John Michael Howe, owner of Austin-based Howe Advertising, was also $500,000 or $50,000 with conditions. Howe has been charged with first-degee drug possession of allegedly taking 1 ounce of cocaine to eliminate a $3,000 debt the informant owed him. He was arrested at the south parking lot of Hardees on 12th Avenue Northwest around 5:30 p.m. Friday.

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Bail for Albert Lea residents Rafael Gonzalez Montesinos, 23, and Cesar Alejandro Zuno, 24, is $500,000 without conditions. The two have been charged with single counts of first-degree drug possession for an alleged transaction of two ounces of cocaine in the Aldi’s grocery store parking lot near Target Friday at 1:50 p.m. Conditional bail for Montesinos is $100,000; for Zuno, $50,000.

Bail for 49-year-old Steven Michael Dittrich, of Owatonna, was set at $500,000 or $50,000 with conditions. Dittrich was arrested at 1:14 p.m. Friday in the Kmart parking lot for allegedly purchasing two ounces of cocaine. He has been charged with a single count of first-degree drug possession.

Kruger said Austin resident Jon Glenn Luna, 39, also appeared in court Monday for a fifth-degree drug charge stemming from a marijuana deal. He was the first arrested Friday, around 12:15 p.m. near the former Steer truck stop on Oakland Avenue in Austin.

Five others, all from Austin, will likely appear in court today, Kruger said, including Juan Gerardo Monroy, 41, for a first-degree charge resulting from alleged cocaine possession at the Hardees parking lot at 3 p.m. Friday; Paul Anderson Serney, 40, for a second-degree possession charge following his arrest Friday at 6:16 p.m. in the same Hardees parking lot for an alleged 0.5 ounce cocaine purchase; Philippe Eke Okorie, 21, and Matthew Michael Jenson, 23, for single first-degree drug charges following an alleged cocaine transaction at the Kmart parking lot at 7:11 p.m. Friday; and a 34-year-old who was the only arrested Saturday following an alleged drug deal around 6:18 p.m. at the Apollo Superette off Oakland Avenue West.

Kruger stated that the county attorney will charge the man with third-degree controlled substance crime.

All four who have bail listed are scheduled to appear in court Aug. 7.

The arrests took place through the coordination of the Austin Police Department, Mower County Sheriff’s Office, Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force and the Central Minnesota Task Force.