Members of drug ring connecting North Dakota Indian Reservations and Michigan residents face federal charges
FARGO, N.D., – On January 7, Drew Wrigley, U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota, announced charges against 26 defendants involved in Operation Blue Prairie, a drug pipeline connecting individuals in Detroit, Michigan, to the Spirit Lake, Turtle Mountain and Fort Berthold Indian Reservations in North Dakota. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents worked alongside members of the FBI, the Bureau of Indians Affairs, U.S. Marshals Service and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in furtherance of this investigation.
In 2015, investigations began into a drug ring responsible for trafficking tens of thousands of Oxycodone pills, worth an estimated $2.5 million, throughout the three North Dakota reservations and Michigan. All 26 defendants have been charged with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, while others also face weapons and money laundering charges. Baquan and Darius Sledge, brothers, face Criminal Continuing Enterprise charges which carry a mandatory sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Eight of the 26 defendants are from Detroit, one is from Kentucky and 17 are from North Dakota.
“This investigation is another perfect example of what federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement can do collectively when resources are combined and efforts are focused on a specific threat to our communities,” Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr., said. “Our tribal communities are no different than any other when it comes to the destruction that drug addiction and the associated property and violent crime brings. DEA will continue to root out the bad actors responsible for terrorizing our Native American communities through drug trafficking.”