One Mankato area juvenile teen is hospitalized in critical condition following a suspected overdose on counterfeit fentanyl pills, and two other teens were also hospitalized in separate overdose incidents in the area on Tuesday, according to the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office.
Three people were arrested in connection to the overdoses later that day: Damarcus Deontay Holloway, 26, Tia Renee Schwichtenberg, 35, and Patrick Orerigho Isiakpere Jr., 31, all from the Mankato area.
Isiakpere was out on bail in another pending case involving guns and drugs, and Holloway was released from jail last week on a reduced sentence after being convicted of a felony and several gross misdemeanor charges in a prior case.
The Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday afternoon that it had responded to three separate incidents of teens experiencing symptoms of overdose that day. All victims either used or were exposed to a substance that caused them to exhibit signs consistent with an opioid overdose. The sheriff said that Narcan was administered to the patients by responders.
The sheriff’s office said it believed the substance to be counterfeit/fake Oxycodone M30 pills that contained fentanyl. Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl can be life-threatening, the sheriff said, with a lethal dose of fentanyl consisting of about two milligrams, which is equivalent to the size of a few grains of salt.
The sheriff’s office provided an update Wednesday morning which said that two of the three juvenile teens had been released from the hospital, but the third remained hospitalized in critical condition.
The office also reported that agents with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force (MRVDTF) had developed leads into the source(s) responsible for the distribution and/or sales of the controlled substance that caused the three juvenile teens to overdose earlier in the day.
The sheriff said that just after 5 p.m., agents located the suspects exiting a residence that agents knew one of the suspects frequented in the city of Mankato. One suspect was seen leaving the residence carrying a camouflage backpack and going between two vehicles associated with the suspect(s), while the other went to one of the vehicles and was seated in the passenger’s front seat.
During the execution of a subsequent search warrant, agents located 377 M30 pills, two firearms, cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana.
All three suspects were charged on Thursday with felony counts of second- and third-degree narcotics involving sale or possession of 10 grams or more.
Isiakpere faces an additional felony charge of second-degree narcotics sales to a person under 18, two felony counts of illegal firearms or ammunition possession, and a gross misdemeanor count of negligent storage of a loaded firearm that a child can access. Isiakpere’s bail was set at $1 million.
Holloway is charged with an additional felony count of illegal possession of a firearm. Holloway’s bail was set at $500,000.
Both Isiakpere and Holloway are prohibited from possessing firearms for life due to prior convictions, the criminal complaints state.
Schwichtenberg is charged with an additional felony count of fifth-degree narcotics and one count of gross misdemeanor child endangerment. Schwichtenberg’s bail was set at $80,000.
Charges say Isiakpere and Holloway met up on Jan. 30 with two juveniles and drove in two separate vehicles to Minneapolis to pick up 300 fentanyl-laced pills at a residence. One of the juveniles later told police that Holloway had a gun which Isiakpere later took into his possession. When the four returned to Mankato, Isiakpere paid the two juveniles with gas and five fentanyl pills each.
One of the juveniles later told police that he smoked the pills which caused his overdose.
Search warrants were obtained for two of Schwichtenberg’s vehicles and at a residence where Isiakpere and Schwichtenberg resided. Agents observed Schwichtenberg, Holloway, and Isiakpere leave the residence. Isiakpere was carrying a camo backpack. Isiakpere was seen placing the backpack in the Dodge Durango for which agents had a warrant.
Schwichtenberg’s toddler-aged child was seated in the back of the vehicle in which Isiakpere was the passenger and Schwichtenberg was in the driver’s seat. Next to where the child was sitting, agents observed a camo backpack.
Inside the camo backpack, agents found a Glock 45 9×19 handgun. The handgun was black in color with a tan magazine. The handgun contained 17 live rounds of 9mm ammunition. Inside the backpack, agents also located a small caliber handgun containing six live rounds of ammunition in the magazine. Also, inside the backpack agents located a plastic bag with 258 or 28.8 grams of blue pills which were stamped with an M with a box around it on one side and a 30 on the other side. The pills are suspected of containing fentanyl and are significantly more than a user amount. The backpack also contained children’s homework and school paperwork.
Another black felt bag was found in the driver’s side door pocket. Inside that bag, agents located an additional 119 or 13.1 Mbox 30 pills. Agents also located 2.8 grams of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine and .9 grams of a rock-like substance that field tested positive for cocaine. The felt bag contained paystubs to Schwichtenberg. On Isiakpere’s person, law enforcement found $1,122 of U.S. currency.
Minnesota court records show that Isiakpere has 26 prior convictions, including nine felonies that include burglary, theft, stalking, robbery, identity theft, and several violations of domestic abuse no contact orders. Isiakpere was also just released from custody on bond in December in a pending case involving two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, as well as third-degree narcotics sales and fifth-degree narcotics possession. The Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office noted in its statement that charges in the pending case were the result of a prior investigation by the MRVDTF.
Holloway has a 2017 conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Under the terms of a plea agreement, a second identical charge was dismissed at sentencing along with misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property and witness tampering. Holloway was sentenced to five years in prison in the case. However, the prison sentence was stayed in a downward departure from sentencing guidelines by Judge Bradley C. Walker. Holloway was instead given credit for 239 days spent in jail and was placed on probation for a term of 10 years, until 2027. Holloway also has a 2016 conviction on aid/abet fifth-degree drug sales.
Most recently, Holloway was just convicted on Jan. 23 as the result of a jury trial on charges of felony fleeing police in a motor vehicle, two counts of criminal vehicular operation, and failure to stop following an injury crash — all gross misdemeanors, as well as a misdemeanor count of fleeing police on foot. Holloway was sentenced to a year and a day in prison following the conviction last week. However, Judge Mark E. Betters credited Holloway with 186 days already spent in jail and placed him on probation for a term of two years.
The fentanyl crisis has become a nationwide epidemic and is impacting areas across the state, including the Twin Cities and Duluth.
Minnesota reported a record number of drug overdoses in 2021, which the Department of Health attributed to the “rise in fentanyl.” In 2022, the DEA reported that it seized 4.7 million lethal doses of fentanyl in the five-state region.
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