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Grand Forks woman pleads not guilty in meth-making case

Joyce Austreng pleaded not guilty Tuesday in state district court in Grand Forks to conspiring with her husband and another man to make methamphetamine.

The felony count carries a top prison sentence of 20 years if she were to be convicted; she also faces lesser felony counts of possessing meth and paraphernalia to smoke it.

Austreng, 20, was arrested Feb. 19 in their Grand Forks home, 15 N. 11th St., the same day her husband Joseph Austreng, 26, and James Richter, 46, were arrested in East Grand Forks.

Their arrests were part of a wider investigation by regional drug task forces surveilling people making suspiciously large and frequent purchases of cold medication used to make meth. The effort has led to several others charged with serious felonies.

Police said Joseph Austreng and Richter had a mobile meth lab in a vehicle when they were stopped in East Grand Forks and admitted they used to make meth. Austreng also said he made meth in his home with his wife.

At her arrest, Joyce Austreng told officers she had bought cold medication used in making meth and had ingested the meth, according to investigators’ affidavits.

Materials commonly used to make meth were found in the Austrengs’ home, police said.

Joyce Austreng is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing May 1 and remains in the Grand Forks County jail.

Richter is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing April 7 and Joseph Austreng is scheduled for the same May 16. Accused of making meth and facing prison sentences of up to 40 years, they’re both in jail in Crookston.

A man living in an apartment adjoining the Austrengs’ home, Justin Baker, 29, also was arrested Feb. 19 and charged with possessing meth with intent to deliver, with maximum prison sentence of 10 years.