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Thief River Falls man pleads guilty to drug charges

A Thief River Falls man pleaded guilty Thursday to giving heroin last summer to a man who then overdosed in a Grand Forks motel room.

Thomas Alan Olson, 24, admitted dealing cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine July 10 in Room 102 of the Quality Inn, 3251 30th Ave. S., with Rodrigo Almendarez, his longtime friend from Thief River Falls.

They both took heroin but Almendarez went unconscious. Somebody called 911.

Olson’s girlfriend, Jade Lilja, now 20, hid some of the drugs in her car as Olson told her to do.

Olson went to the motel’s lobby and waited while paramedics worked on Almendarez, who was lying on a bed and police began searching the room.

Almendarez’ girlfriend, Mariana Balboa, now 30, and Lilja also were questioned.

According to the investigators’ court affidavit, while paramedics were working on Almendarez, he suddenly awakened, pulled an IV out of his arm and fled the room. Police on the scene could not find him.

Olson, meanwhile, talked to police, who noticing how high he was, arrested him. Later that night, after he was booked into jail, he asked to speak to the officers again and told them about his drugs in Lilja’s car.

Struck a deal

His deal with prosecutors Thursday included the dismissal of one of the most serious heroin dealing charges in return for his guilty pleas to several other felony drug counts.

Tom Falck, assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County, recommended a sentence of five years in prison with two years suspended.

State District Judge Sonja Clapp must approve the deal and she set sentencing for July 2. Olson remains in jail.

Almendarez, who has a history of felony drug and violence convictions and jail time in Minnesota, faces several drug charges similar to Olson’s in the incident, but has not made any court appearances since last summer.

Lilja pleaded guilty last fall to drug-related charges and was sentenced to a few months of treatment at a state center in Jamestown and two years of probation. However, prosecutors say she kept using and dealing and Lilja now faces a probation revocation hearing next week.

All drug charges against Balboa were dropped last fall.

Article written by Stephen J. Lee of the Forum News Service

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