The interception of a FedEx package containing a pound of methamphetamine, a high-speed motorcycle pursuit across the Bong Bridge and a last-ditch effort to escape through a hotel window preceded the arrests of a Superior couple that prosecutors said were "near the top of the pyramid in a lucrative distribution conspiracy" that stretched from Colorado to the Twin Ports.
Authorities said tips from confidential reliable informants, travel and financial records and the execution of several search warrants in Duluth and Superior last week helped piece together the major meth distribution conspiracy.
Jeffrey Allen Walkowiak and Cindy Lynn Hendricks, both 47, allegedly made several trips to Colorado and arranged shipments of significant quantities of meth every few weeks for up to six months, according to court documents.
Police said the couple initially eluded apprehension by fleeing across the Bong Bridge, but left behind a trail of drugs and personal items before authorities caught up with them at a Proctor hotel, where they unsuccessfully attempted to flee once again.
Walkowiak and Hendricks were arraigned Monday in State District Court in Duluth, each facing a felony charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree sale of methamphetamine. Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson set bail at $100,000 for both defendants.
They also were charged by warrant in Douglas County with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of THC.
According to criminal complaints filed in both states:
Investigators with the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force began investigating the couple and conducting surveillance at their Ogden Avenue residence after receiving tips in late 2016 that Walkowiak and others were involved in a conspiracy to import meth from Denver to the Twin Ports.
Last week, investigators at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Police Department intercepted a package addressed to a Duluth residence that was found to contain 456 grams - or just over a pound - of meth. The FedEx package originated in Denver, but investigators said it had been sent with a fictitious return address.
Task force members conducted a "controlled delivery" of the package to the Duluth residence on Wednesday, and subsequently obtained and executed a search warrant at the house. Residents told police that Walkowiak had arranged to have the package sent there and that he would pick it up once it was delivered.
A woman there also told investigators that she, Walkowiak, Hendricks and others had in the past traveled to Denver to obtain substantial quantities of meth.
Investigators also executed a warrant at a second Duluth house where they said Walkowiak and Hendricks would stash their supply. The house was found to have an "elaborate surveillance system" and a hidden safe that contained a small amount of meth.
Investigators attempted to arrest the couple in West Duluth on Wednesday, but they fled across the Bong Bridge on a motorcycle. It was reported that they were "actively throwing drugs from their person" in Superior before police decided to end the pursuit.
Police said they found about 3 grams of meth along the side of Belknap Street in the Billings Park neighborhood, and a citizen later located a purse belonging to Hendricks. The purse contained several forms of identification, additional meth, a ledger book of suspected drug transactions and a notebook containing package-tracking numbers - including the one seized at the airport.
After obtaining a search warrant for Walkowiak's phone, investigators found the couple at the AmericInn Hotel and Suites in Proctor. They were arrested after climbing through a window and attempting to flee on foot.
Investigators conducted a search of the couple's Ogden Avenue residence, finding approximately 190 grams of meth, along with small quantities of heroin and marijuana. They said they also located used syringes, a meth pipe, a scale, a bottle of Narcan and two firearms.
Police said they also received travel records that showed Walkowiak making several trips to the Denver area over the past several months and financial records indicating that he had transferred more than $19,000 to sources in Colorado.
Both defendants are due back in court on May 31.