MARINETTE - Stopping the flow of heroin into Marinette and Menominee counties has been an ongoing battle for law enforcement agencies from both sides of the river for the past several years. The sheer number of users and overdoses in this area has become epidemic, according to law enforcement officials, who have stated they are well aware that the vast majority of the heroin that makes it way to the Twin Cities is transported from the Milwaukee and Chicago area.

To combat the scourge of the highly addictive, deadly drug, local law enforcement agencies have ramped up surveillance of suspected users and dealers in Marinette and Menominee. A recent surveillance operation undertaken by both local law enforcement ant the Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigations has led to the arrest of five local residents - all of whom are being held in the Marinette County Jail, each charged with possession with intent to deliver between 10 and 50 grams of heroin.

Those taken into custody following the Jan 29 bust include: Eric E. Ebbole, 41, Menominee; Shawn A. Klatt, 32, Menominee; Mindy S. Ott, 49, Menominee; Amie M. Isfalt, 32, Marinette; and Hannah M. Miatech, 21, Menominee.

If convicted, each faces a fine of not more than $100,000, imprisonment for not more than 25 years, or both. 

Four of the five who were arrested appeared in court via videoconference Tuesday for their initial appearance before Marinette County Circuit Court Judge Jim Morrison. The lone defendant who did not appear was Ebbole, whose initial appearance was scheduled for Feb. 26.

According to a criminal complaint issued by the district attorney's office, the events immediately leading to the Jan. 29 arrests actually began the day before, when law enforcement personnel noticed suspicious activity occurring at and nearby Ebbole's residence.

The operation commenced when authorities observed a red PT Cruiser pick up individuals at Ebbole's residence and two other locations under surveillance in the City of Menominee. At that point, law enforcement maintained visual moving surveillance on the vehicle as it traveled across the Interstate Bridge into Marinette. 

According to the complaint, at 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 28, the PT Cruiser pulled into the Taco Bell Shell Station on U.S. 41, where law enforcement watched a man get out of the vehicle and pump gas. From there, the car traveled southbound on U.S. 41. 

Having reason to believe the vehicle and its occupants were heading south on a "drug run," the authorities watched and followed.

Investigator Jon LaCombe of the Marinette Police Department was part of the team involved in the operation.

"Investigator LaCombe reports that law enforcement followed the vehicle to the Racine area where it stopped for gas and then continued traveling southbound into the State of Illinois, where the vehicle traveled to the south side of Chicago," the complaint reads. 

After entering Chicago's south side, the vehicle exited at Cicero Avenue and traveled to North Lavender Avenue at West Thompson Street. According to the complaint, it was there that the vehicle pulled into an alley at approximately 9:50 p.m.

LaCombe further stated in the complaint that Chicago's Cicero Avenue area is a common destination for Marinette and Menominee drug runners looking to pick up heroin.

Early the following morning, law enforcement surveillance observed the PT Cruiser heading northbound on U.S. 41. According to the complaint, the vehicle was followed back to Marinette County, where it pulled into the parking lot near George Webb Restaurant.

There, at 3:42 a.m., one of the passengers in the PT Cruiser got out of the car and into a black Ford pickup truck. Both vehicles continued northbound on U.S. 41, the report reads.

The two vehicles were stopped separately by law enforcement as they continued toward and into the City of Marinette. Officers found heroin in the possession of passengers in both the car and pickup.

According to the complaint, two of the female suspects had a combined total of an estimated 40.72 grams of heroin - both women had the drug concealed in baggies in their vaginas.
 
One of the five suspects told law enforcement that three individuals made the trip to Chicago - departing with a total of $1,200 which was to be used to purchase heroin. 

According to a DCI Special Agent assigned to narcotics investigations, the Marinette-Menominee street value of the heroin that was found is "somewhere between $12,000 and $20,000, depending on the manner of sale."

Miatech is currently being held on $100,000 cash bond. Cash bond for each of the other four individuals implicated in the arrests has been set at $250,000.