Three men – two with local ties – have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a methamphetamine distribution ring in east central Minnesota.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that, from May 2020 through September 2020, Aaron Michael Stenquist, 50, of Isanti, Gerald Allen Jensen, 58, of Brook Park, and Juan Jose Paniagua, 25, of West Covina, California, and others conspired together to sell methamphetamine in the Twin Cities as well as Pine and Kanabec Counties.

Over the summer of 2020, members of the East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force (ECDVOTF) began developing information that Jensen was selling large amounts of methamphetamine out of his Brook Park residence. 

On July 29, 2020, Stenquist was stopped by a Minnesota State Trooper near East Bethel. During a subsequent search of Stenquist’s vehicle, the trooper found approximately 355 grams of methamphetamine, which he had purchased from Jensen. 

On Sept. 16, 2020, ECDVOTF agents searched Jensen’s home and seized approximately 3.5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside PVC pipes. 

On Sept. 18, 2020, Paniagua – along with alleged co-conspirator Miguel Eduardo Del Real, 26 – arranged for a methamphetamine delivery from the Twin Cities to Jensen at the Grand Casino in Hinckley. The attempted delivery was brought by co-defendant Ivan Lopez, 26, and was intercepted by ECDVOTF agents. The agents arrested Lopez at the scene. Paniagua and Del Real fled the scene. 

After a 90-minute manhunt involving police canine and thermal imaging, law enforcement found Paniagua and arrested him. Agents separately recovered approximately seven kilograms of methamphetamine in vacuum sealed bags from within the trunk of Lopez’s vehicle.

Defendants Lopez, Stenquist, Jensen, and Paniagua each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Stenquist was sentenced yesterday to 120 months in prison, Jensen was sentenced on July 14, 2021, to 112 months in prison, and Paniagua was sentenced on Oct. 8, 2021, to 80 months in prison. Lopez is awaiting sentencing. 

On Nov. 2, 2021, alleged co-conspirator Del Real was arrested in San Diego, California, pursuant to a federal warrant.

Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk for the District of Minnesota made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank sentenced the defendants.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen A. Slaughter, and was the result of an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the East Central Drug and Violent Offender Task Force, the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Paul Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Minnesota State Patrol.

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