41 indicted in drug trafficking ring on 2 Indian reservations

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41_indicted_in_drug_trafficking_ring_on_2_indian_reservations-web.jpg A federal grand jury has indicted 41

people in connection with a drug trafficking ring focused on two

Indian reservations in Minnesota.

Authorities say the ring distributed

drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone and others in and

around the Red Lake and White Earth Indian reservations starting in

April 2014. Drugs were obtained in Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Heroin and prescription drugs have

blazed a horrific path on the reservation, said Randy Goodwin, White

Earth director of public safety. He said even newborn babies have

been exposed to heroin because of their mothers’ addictions.

"Many

lives, families, and communities have been damaged or destroyed from

this poison," Goodwin said. "Lives have been lost from

overdose. Families have been destroyed. Our elders have been victims

of threats, abuse, and theft."

Prosecutors describe Omar Sharif

Beasley, 37, as the ringleader of the operation, alleging that he

"recruited sources, supervisors, managers, distributors,

facilitators, couriers, drivers." A former federal fugitive,

Beasley has a history of drug convictions. For the past month, he has

been held at the Anoka County jail on an unrelated charge of

violating his probation.

Others charged include residents of

North Dakota, Chicago, Milwaukee and the White Earth and Red Lake

reservations.

Each suspect has been charged

with conspiracy to distribute the drugs. Other charges for some of

the suspects include drug possession with intent to distribute,

illegal possession of a firearm and distribution of heroin,

methamphetamine and prescription painkillers.

The indictment was filed last week but

unsealed on May 27.

Dan Moren, assistant special agent in

charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in the Twin

Cities, said the group’s members made millions by operating from

far-flung corners of the state where they faced less competition and

could try to hide the extent of their organization.

In northern Minnesota, where

authorities have noted an increase in heroin use, Beltrami County

Sheriff Phil Hodapp hopes the drug bust will slow drug sales.

"Our region has seen a dramatic

increase in the amount of heroin being trafficked into this area,

particularly onto the reservation," Hodapp said. "It’s our

belief that this investigation and these arrests are going to have a

significant impact on the amount of drugs that are being brought into

this area."

Audrey Thayer, a White Earth member

who lives on the Leech Lake reservation, hopes the most recent

arrests also will put a dent in the amount of drugs that ravage her

community. She said her 39-year-old daughter has been using drugs

since she was a teenager. Now in treatment, Thayer’s daughter has

been off of heroin and methamphetamine for seven months.

"For families to become healthy,

it takes work," Thayer said. "I can only speak on my own

behalf and my family — we’ve worked hard and have had very little

success. That is devastating, and you can see where families give up

hope."

In Red Lake, illegal drug use has

reached an epidemic level, Public Safety Director Bill Brunelle said.

"There are many good people

living in the Red Lake community who are not addicted to drugs, but

others have children that are longing for their parents to be drug

free," he said. "And unfortunately a percentage of these

children take it upon themselves to report their living situation

regarding neglect due to illegal drug abuse."

Making matters worse, Brunelle said,

was a long-standing perception by drug traffickers that Indian

country was an easy target given the lack of resources by tribal

police. But he said what his department lacks in manpower, it makes

up for in collaboration with federal agencies.

The bust dismantled the drug ring and

will hinder any attempts to spawn new operations targeting tribal

communities, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Thursday.

"We didn’t want to just take down

the head of the organization or the people bringing the heroin into

the state of Minnesota," Luger said. "We wanted to make it

as difficult as possible for somebody to come in and pick up where

this organization left off."

As of May 28 morning, authorities

had arrested 35 people, from North Dakota to Gary, Ind.

MPR News reporters Dan Gunderson and

John Enger contributed to this story.

 

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney Andy Luger tells

reporters that a large heroin trafficking ring targeting two Indian

reservations in Minnesota is officially "out of business"

following the indictment of 41 people. Beside him is Bill Brunelle,

director of public safety for the Red Lake Tribal Police Department.

(Photo by Laura Yuen | MPR News)

 

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