Charges: Major drug dealer busted with over 65,000 fentanyl pills in Twin Cities

Mohamed Ali Elmi, 22, was arrested twice in one day earlier this month on two different felony warrants on charges of alleged narcotics sales.

41,000 suspected fentanyl pills and seized guns (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

A Seattle, Wash., man has been charged in two Twin Cities narcotics cases with possessing over 65,000 suspected fentanyl pills and is suspected of being a high-level player in a distribution operation.

Mohamed Ali Elmi, 22, was arrested twice in one day earlier this month on two different felony warrants on charges of alleged narcotics sales.

Mohamed Ali Elmi (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

Elmi was first arrested by MSP Airport Police in the early morning hours of Jan. 13, 2023, on a felony warrant that had been issued in September last year. Charges outlined in that criminal complaint state that on April 16, 2022, airport police were alerted to a suspicious duffel bag that smelled strongly of marijuana among the checked baggage. Airline personnel placed the bag back on the carousel and officers observed a person, later identified as Elmi, eventually take custody of the bag and leave with it.

Officers approached Elmi, and he referred to the bag as his. Elmi also admitted he smoked marijuana, then reached into the bag and produced a baggie of marijuana. Officers took custody of the bag.

A search warrant was obtained to search the bag, during which officers recovered numerous baggies of marijuana totaling 23.7 grams, as well as five “vitamin bottles” containing pills. The seals on the bottles had already been removed, and the pills in all five bottles appeared to be consistent with controlled substances, not vitamins. One bottle contained 5,388 tablets of an identical nature. The tablets from that one bottle were sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for analysis. A specific tablet was analyzed and found to contain fentanyl and weighed .112 grams. Therefore, the approximate combined weight of all fentanyl tablets in this one bottle was 603.456 grams, the complaint said.

Based on the BCA analysis, the total of five bottles was estimated to contain approximately 25,297 pills, equating to approximately 2,833.264 grams of fentanyl. The complaint asserts that possession of that amount of fentanyl tablets, whether one bottle or all five, is consistent with intent to sell and is suggestive of mass distribution.

Officers learned that Elmi was the one who checked the duffel bag in Phoenix, Ariz., the city of origin for the flight, and had booked the one-way flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis less than one-hour prior to departure. The complaint noted that those activities are consistent with drug trafficking. Surveillance video from the Phoenix airport was obtained that showed Elmi arriving at the airport in a vehicle, removing the same duffel bag from the vehicle, and checking this duffel bag prior to boarding the flight to Minneapolis.

According to jail records Alpha News was able to obtain, there was no indication that Elmi was booked into custody at the time of the detainment and search in April. An arrest warrant being issued months later in September is consistent with potential BCA delays in analyzing evidence.

Hennepin County Jail records show Elmi was booked into custody at about 1:20 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2023, on the first arrest warrant on a charge of first-degree narcotics sale of 50 grams or more. The jail record shows Elmi spent 12 hours in jail before posting a $75,000 bond and being released from jail just after noon the same day. However, a separate booking record shows Elmi was nearly immediately re-arrested and re-booked into jail at about 12:40 p.m., within 30 minutes of his release on the prior arrest.

Information and a photo posted on social media by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 13, 2023 (top photo), the same day of Elmi’s arrest, indicated that a search warrant was executed by the Hennepin County Violent Offender Task Force (VOTF) and Emergency Services Unit (ESU) at an apartment in downtown Minneapolis in relation to a narcotics distribution and weapons possession investigation.

Although HCSO did not name the subject of the warrant, the items found during the warrant execution as referenced by HCSO in the social media post match a second arrest warrant issued for Elmi on a charge of first-degree aggravated controlled substance crime with two aggravating factors. HCSO also said that the search warrant was a collaborative investigation with the MSP Airport Police Department.

The charging document in the second case states that law enforcement executed a search warrant in a unit on the 15th floor of 240 Park Avenue, and names Elmi as the target of the search warrant. The charging document states that Elmi was not present at the time the warrant was executed, as it was presumably executed during the 12-hour period Elmi was jailed on the first arrest.

The search warrant at 240 Park turned up approximately nine pounds of fentanyl pills in a gray garbage bag — estimated at over 40,000 pills — eight jars of marijuana (28.46 grams) in a backpack on the floor of the closet, a loaded Glock firearm in a drawer, a gun magazine in a fruit bowl, another extended magazine with ammunition in a kitchen cabinet, a loaded rifle in a backpack in the closet, more ammunition in a closet that also contained a citation in Elmi’s name, other documents in Elmi’s name which included the 240 Park address, a safe in the closet which held a court document in Elmi’s name, and suitcases that matched those Elmi had recently been seen carrying.

Again, the second complaint noted that the quantity of pills is significantly more than personal use and indicates an “intent to sell and that [Elmi] holds high place in the distribution hierarchy.” The complaint states Elmi was arrested shortly after the warrant was executed, presumably as he was being released on bond from the first arrest.

Elmi remains in custody on a new bail amount of $1 million in the second case. Court records show that Elmi has retained a private attorney who did not respond to a request for comment.

Elmi is scheduled to make his next court appearance on March 6 in both cases.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.


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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.