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East Grand Forks man sentenced for role in fentanyl ring

CROOKSTON--An East Grand Forks man charged in connection with a group accused of trafficking fentanyl and other narcotics in the region was sentenced to serve more than five years in prison Tuesday.

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Robert John-Benson Powell

CROOKSTON-An East Grand Forks man charged in connection with a group accused of trafficking fentanyl and other narcotics in the region was sentenced to serve more than five years in prison Tuesday.

Robert John-Benson Powell, 20, pleaded guilty to felony first-degree drug sale for his role in a drug operation uncovered after an overdose in Grand Forks on March 22 led to an investigation into pills marked to look like OxyContin but containing fentanyl, a powerful opioid. He was among five men charged in Minnesota, North Dakota and in U.S. District Court related to the case.

Powell was sentenced to 65 months in prison Tuesday.

Benjamin David Gottberg, 20, has also pleaded guilty to felony first-degree drug sale and was scheduled for sentencing Tuesday, but his hearing has been delayed to Thursday, according to court records.

Powell and Gottberg initially faced charges of conspiracy to commit controlled substance crime in the first degree. In April, Polk County prosecutors filed notice they intended to seek aggravated sentencing in the case, meaning they wanted to depart from state standards to put the men away for more time. Plea agreements between the men and prosecutors were reached in August.

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Two men in the ring had their cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Cody Allen Stengl, 20, East Grand Forks, and Jan "Honza" Cervenka, 20, Grand Forks, have both been charged and signed agreements pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to possessing and conspiring to distribute controlled substances.

The two ordered a wide variety of narcotics from the internet, many of which were delivered to the area by the U.S. Postal Service, according to court documents.

Stengl and Cervenka are both scheduled for plea hearings on Oct. 30 in Fargo.

Stengl still faces five felony charges in Minnesota related to the case. His next hearing in the state-level case is a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Nov. 14.

Cervenka is also charged in Grand Forks County with two felony drug possession charges as part of the alleged conspiracy. His North Dakota case has been continued pending the outcome of the federal case, according to court records.

A fifth man, Tucker Christian Collings, was charged in both Minnesota and North Dakota, but avoided federal charges.

Collings, 20, has pleaded guilty to first degree-drug sale in Polk County and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9. His next North Dakota court date is a final dispositional conference on Oct. 26 in Grand Forks. Collings is being represented in North Dakota by former Grand Forks State's Attorney Peter Welte.

Related Topics: CRIME
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