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Fake saint leads to 62 pounds of marijuana in Carlton County

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DULUTH - Two Texas residents were charged this week with attempting to transport 62 pounds of marijuana through Carlton County.

Jorge Gutierrez-Salazar, 24, faces a felony charge of third-degree possession of a controlled substance, while Graciela Yadit Medrano, 21, is charged with aiding and abetting third-degree possession of a controlled substance, a felony.

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According to the complaint, the Rockwall, Texas, residents were stopped by a Minnesota State Patrol officer as they drove north on Interstate 35 just before noon on Jan. 5.

Trooper David Vereecken stopped the vehicle because of an obstructed license plate. He reported that as he spoke to the duo, their stories conflicted and made no sense. He then noticed a caricature of the so-called patron saint of drug smugglers, "Jesus Malverde," hanging from the defendant's rear-view mirror, court documents said.

According to the complaint:

Vereecken then called for assistance from the Fond du Lac Police Department for a drug detection dog. As Fond du Lac Sgt. Casey Rennquist walked Victor around the vehicle, the dog alerted at the trunk. As the trunk was opened, he specifically indicated several pieces of luggage inside.

Two large bales of marijuana reportedly were found inside the luggage and a preliminary field weight by the trooper revealed the amount to be 62 pounds.

Police said Salazar told officers the drugs belonged to him and that he was bringing the drugs to Duluth from Texas as a "favor to a sinister drug cartel he was familiar with."

Medrano reportedly owned the vehicle and knew the drugs were inside.

Medrano's family posted $10,000 bond, according to jail staff. Salazar's bail was set at $50,000, and he remains in Carlton County Jail.

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