by Dennis Dalman
Sentencing awaits a St. Cloud woman Aug. 7 who pleaded guilty in March to being in charge of a shipping operation that delivered massive amounts of dangerous drugs such as fentanyl from Mexico to the United States, including Minnesota.
Macalla “Kayla” Lee Knott, 30, St. Cloud, was arrested for and charged with directing shipments of methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl to distributors (drug dealers) throughout the Upper Midwest. She then arranged payments to the drugs’ supply sources in Mexico, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The drug shipments amounted to more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine, nine pounds of fentanyl powder and 120,000 fentanyl pills.
Before her arrest, Knott had been living in Mexico since March 2020, according to investigators. On March 13, she pleaded guilty in federal court in Fargo to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and taking part in a money-laundering conspiracy.
The case against Knott is part of an ongoing investigation that so far has led to 18 others who were charged in North Dakota. At this point, two of the 18 have been sentenced: Mary Thompson, 29, of Moorhead (100 months in prison, three years supervised release); and Melanie Quick, 28, of St. Cloud (108 months in prison, three years supervised release).
The case is part of an investigation by the Organized Crime and Drug Task Force, which investigates international trafficking of illegal drugs. The investigation was aided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota.
Also involved in the widespread investigation were the Central Minnesota Offenders Task Force, the FBI, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the St. Cloud and Sartell police departments and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, as well as sheriff’s offices in the counties of Benton, Sherburne and Morrison. Also involved were the Fargo Police Department and the West Fargo Police Department.
In a similar case, a St. Paul man, Keonee Nasier Shaffer-Frazier, 23, was sentenced July 28 to 144 months in prison for fentanyl trafficking and illegally possessing a firearm. He pleaded guilty of obtaining fentanyl pills from out of state and distributing them throughout the Twin Cities area from 2021 to 2022. In a search of Shaffer-Frazier’s residence, officers found 57,000 fentanyl pills and $83,000 from him and from his co-conspirators in the crimes.