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Police net large opium bust

July 27, 2002

Gretchen Hoffman

Glendale Police have arrested two people suspected of

participating in a large-scale opium ring and are set to serve search

warrants on others suspected of distributing the drug in Glendale and

surrounding cities.

Glendale resident Razmik Minasian, 36, allegedly recruited a

Swedish woman to pick up a suitcase containing 11 pounds of heroin

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from Turkey, Glendale Police said.

The woman, Ingela Sjunnesson, returned to Sweden, and Minasian

contacted her and told her to bring the suitcases to Glendale. But

the airline lost her luggage in New York and she continued to Los

Angeles without the suitcases.

The luggage was located, one piece at a time, and forwarded to her

in Los Angeles, but the second suitcase found was screened by U.S.

Customs agents who found 11 pounds of opium concealed in the lining.

The agents contacted Glendale Police. Authorities here arranged to

deliver the second suitcase to Sjunnesson, who was staying at the

Chariot Inn, 1118 E. Colorado St. on July 20. They also served a

search warrant on Minasian's home in the 500 block of Woodbury Road.

"She went to Turkey to pick up two suitcases containing what she

thought was clothing," Glendale Police Investigator Craig Tweedy

said. "I think she was brought into this thing on false pretenses."

The suitcase was filled with leather jackets and other items, and

the opium was not visible.

Sjunnesson was arrested on suspicion of possessing and

transporting opium, and Minasian was arrested on suspicion of

possessing opium for sales.

The drugs -- which represent the department's largest opium

seizure to date -- are valued at $200,000. Police believe the arrests

were related to a March 13 incident in which a religious icon

containing a kilo of opium was mailed to a Glendale woman. Kamali

Masihi, 64, was arrested on suspicion of possessing opium for sales

but the district attorney's office declined to charge her with the

crime.

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