by April Scheinoha
A Thief River Falls man was sentenced Tuesday, Sept. 20 in Pennington County District Court for nine felony offenses. The charges stemmed from the sale or possession of methamphetamine mixtures totalling more than 68.17 grams. The incidents go back to May 1, 2014.
Erick Carl Longo, 40, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. He was expected to be remanded to the Minnesota Department of Corrections in a few weeks after a hearing is held regarding his financial responsibilities, including whether any forfeitures will be made.
Details of the sentencing are as follows. All sentences are to be served concurrently.
• Racketeering – 84 months in prison
• Fourth degree controlled substance crime – 15 months in prison
• First degree controlled substance crime – 110 months in prison
• First degree controlled substance crime – 134 months in prison
• Second degree controlled substance crime – 129 months in prison
• Conspiracy to commit a first degree controlled substance crime – 189 months in prison
• Conspiracy to commit a first degree sale of a controlled substance – 189 months in prison
• Fifth degree controlled substance crime – 18 months in prison
• Third degree possession of a controlled substance crime – 49 months in prison
As a condition of those sentences, Longo was ordered to supply a DNA sample. He was ordered to not possess firearms. Financial terms were stayed until the upcoming hearing. Longo was given credit for time served.
A Pennington County jury convicted Longo of the nine felonies after a six-day trial in July. The jury acquitted him of one count each of second degree controlled substance crime and conspiracy to commit a first degree controlled substance crime. Earlier, another racketeering charge, one count of second degree controlled substance crime, one count of conspiracy to commit a second degree controlled substance crime, one count of third degree controlled substance crime, and one count of fourth degree controlled substance crime were dismissed.
Prior to sentencing Tuesday, Judge Eric Schieferdecker denied a defense motion for a new trial. Longo’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joshua Melgaard, argued that the evidence didn’t support the verdicts.
Schieferdecker noted that Melgaard referred to Christopher Seglem, a confidential informant who was later identified by the authorities. Longo was convicted of selling 17.74 grams of meth mixtures over a 90-day period. Most were sold to Seglem, who has since been sentenced for setting up law enforcement and individuals. However, Longo and Seglem both told law enforcement that Longo wasn’t involved in Seglem’s crimes.
Schieferdecker indicated that extensive disclosures regarding Seglem were provided to the defense and used at the trial. He said that the jury still believed Seglem, and officers corroborated a lot of the activity to which Seglem testified.
Longo’s wife, Vyetta, earlier presented a letter to court administration on her husband’s behalf. Schieferdecker said it would be more appropriate to discuss the issues at a post-conviction relief hearing. He indicated that Erick Longo claimed that Melgaard didn’t contest the last search warrant executed in the case. Schieferdecker advised Longo to take that issue to the State Public Defender’s Office.
Prior to sentencing, a crying Longo pointed at Assistant Pennington County Attorney Steve Moeller and said, “He knows I didn’t do it.” He then pointed at Ron Woolever, a narcotics investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and said, “He knows I didn’t do it.”
When given the opportunity to speak, Longo said he wanted to see his wife, who was in the courtroom that day. Schieferdecker replied that Longo was still in custody.
Longo added that he didn’t do all of the things law enforcement said he had done. Crying, he indicated there may be only 10 percent truth in the case. Longo was given the opportunity to compose himself and speak with his attorney during a short recess. In the midst of that break, Vyetta Longo could be heard, making loud statements related to the case in the court administration hallway.
The charges stemmed from incidents spanning back to May 1, 2014. Eight people told investigators that Erick Longo had a drug operation in which mules or runners were used to sell meth, according to the complaint. He would give them free meth, cigarettes or gas money to help in the operation. Some said meth would be floated to some buyers, but Longo would confiscate their property or damage it if the debt weren’t paid. One man said he gave the title of his motorcycle to Longo. After the man was unable to pay his debt for two eight-balls of meth, Longo confiscated the motorcycle.
Another man said someone owed $2,000 from a previous drug debt. He said Longo instructed him and a third man to hire people to burn down a barn belonging to the debtor’s relative. The barn later burned down, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office was unable to determine the cause of the fire.
During the trial, there was apparently testimony that Longo directed someone to kill a dog belonging to the sheriff’s daughter. Melgaard characterized that testimony as a reputational rumor.
The complaint further noted that neither Longo nor his wife, Vyetta, had a steady job. However, they were able to pay about $9,600 over five months toward a contract for deed for Ashley Castillo and her father. Vyetta Longo also paid for her husband’s bail with $10,000 in cash. After encountering Erick Longo, who had been assaulted at St. Bernard’s Catholic Cemetery, police learned he possessed $20,000 in cash. Witnesses indicated that the money came from the proceeds of meth sales. Longo also possessed a stamp that said “Longo’s Dope House Sales Auto & Loan.”
After being arrested, Longo admitted that he marked his bags of meth with a B or T. During controlled drug buys, law enforcement obtained bags marked in that manner. According to the complaint, he also admitted that two baggies of a meth mixture found in his home belonged to him. The mixtures weighed 12.43 grams.
Longo was also convicted of selling one or more meth mixtures totalling 10 or more grams with Christopher Marvin Leeper on Sept. 29, 2014. He was also convicted of two counts of conspiring to sell one or more meth mixtures totalling 10 or more grams with Leeper, Bobbi Jo Garfve, Heather Flickinger, Ashley Castillo, Sasha Carriere, Brandon Wasley and Vyetta Longo. One of the counts allegedly involved Jordi Lancette while the other did not.
In addition, Longo was convicted of possessing an eight-gram mixture containing meth.