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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Wisconsin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 14, 2016

Two Minnesota Men Charged in Central Wisconsin Methamphetamine Conspiracy

MADISON, WIS. -- John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announces the unsealing of an indictment returned on September 14 by a grand jury sitting in Madison, charging David Vance-Bryan, 29, Moose Lake, Minn., and Michael Kjonaas, 41, Oakdale, Minn., with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The indictment alleges that this conspiracy involved more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Kjonaas and Vance-Bryan face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison.

Kjonaas was arrested by law enforcement on September 28. He made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Madison on October 4. Vance-Bryan made his initial appearance on October 12 in U.S. District Court in Madison. Both men were ordered detained pending trial, which is scheduled for April 10, 2017.

With this indictment, 19 people have now been charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in the central Wisconsin area, including Merrill and Wausau, from June 2013 through May 2016. The following individuals previously indicted are:

  1. Joseph Kujawa, 37, Oakdale, Minn.;
  2. Kyle Quintana, 23, St. Paul, Minn.;
  3. Jacob Loose, 24, Wausau, Wis.;
  4. Patrick Keenan, 29, Wausau;
  5. Jaimie Pankow, 32, Wausau;
  6. Anthony Rogers, 24, Wausau;
  7. Andrew Nelson, 31, Merrill;
  8. Karen Zais, 48, Merrill;
  9. Paul Rasmussen, 34, Osseo:
  10. Christopher Schmeltzer, 45, Merrill;
  11. David Brandenburg, 25, Merrill;
  12. Matthew Drake, 25, Merrill;
  13. Ryan Thomas, 23, Wausau;
  14. Jonas Ellwart, 23, Wausau;
  15. Danny Graap, 50, Beloit, Wis.;
  16. Joshua Graap, 31, Merrill, and;
  17. Christina Abbott, 34, Hatley, Wis.

To date, three defendants have pleaded guilty. Anthony Rogers pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Madison on August 23, to conspiring to distribute over 500 grams of methamphetamine. At the plea hearing, Rogers admitted that he and Kyle Quintana began dealing methamphetamine in mid-2013. Their source of supply was Quintana's cousin, Joe Kujawa, from Oakdale, Minn. Rogers and Quintana travelled to Minnesota to pick up the methamphetamine, or Kujawa had drivers deliver to Quintana at his home in Wausau. Rogers was taking half of the load and selling it with Jacob Loose, while Andy Nelson and Karen Zais took the other half. This continued until law enforcement executed a search warrant at Nelson’s and Zais’s home in June 2014. U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled Rogers’ sentencing for November 8, 2016, at 10:00 am. Rodgers faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison.

Andy Nelson and Karen Zais pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute over 500 grams of methamphetamine on September 14, 2016. At their plea hearing, Nelson and Zais both admitted they sold methamphetamine from their home in Merrill. Nelson admitted they distributed 873 grams of methamphetamine from June 2013 to June 2014.  U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled Nelson's sentencing for December 7, 2016, and Zais's sentencing for November 29, 2016. Nelson and Zais face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison.

Three other defendants have signed plea agreements and are scheduled to enter guilty pleas this month in U.S. District Court in Madison. Paul Rasmussen and Jacob Loose are each scheduled to plead guilty to conspiring to distribute over 500 grams of methamphetamine. Chris Schmeltzer is scheduled to plead guilty to conspiring to distribute over 50 grams of methamphetamine. Schmeltzer’s plea is scheduled for October 21, and Paul Rasmussen and Jacob Loose are both scheduled to enter guilty pleas on October 28. Rasmussen and Loose face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison, while Schmeltzer faces a mandatory minimum of five years, and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison.

Jonas Ellwart and Ryan Thomas were indicted on August 3, 2016, and their trial is set for March 13, 2017, in U.S. District Court in Madison. Danny Graap, Joshua Graap and Christina Abbott were indicted on August 24, 2016, and their trial is set for April 3, 2017. Thomas faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison, while Ellwart faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Danny and Joshua Graap each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life in federal prison, while Abbott faces a mandatory minimum of 5 years, and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison.

With the exception of Nelson, Zais, Brandenburg, and Schmeltzer, all of the charged defendants are in federal custody. This investigation is ongoing.

The charges against these defendants are the result of an investigation by the Wausau office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation; Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department; the Wausau office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; Marathon County Sheriff’s Department, Special Investigations Unit; Wausau Police Department; and IRS Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber.

You are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated October 17, 2016