Officials Arrest 29 in Connection with Drug Trafficking Ring in Bakken Region

North Dakota and Montana media report that thanks to a newly created drug task force, prosecutors have indicted twenty-nine people for their part in a sophisticated and lucrative drug trafficking ring in the Bakken oil fields area. The ring supplied both methamphetamine and heroin to the regional economic hub.

The enterprise transported its product from California to the Bakken, leading to criminal charges in both California and North Dakota. The FBI announced that federal charges were filed against twenty-two individuals in western North Dakota and an additional seven in Bakersfield, California, on August 11th. The defendants, ranging in age from 21 to 53 years, face a number of charges, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, possession of drugs with intent to distribute, and illegal weapons possession. While this bust undoubtedly puts a big dent in the crime ring's organization and output, Christopher Myers, the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case in North Dakota, tells the Grand Forks Herald that the investigation remains "very active."

The Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force

Both law enforcement officers and prosecutors credit the high-profile bust to the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force, a group only formally announced in June of this year. This is the first major action taken by the group since the announcement. While the strike force is only three months old, the underlying investigation, referred to internally as "Operation Western Edge," has been working for over two years toward this end. Myers stated that these indictments help "bring [the investigation] to that next level." The strike force includes members of, and operates in coordination with, local, state, and federal officials--including the FBI. Myers stated that the bust serves as a warning to other potential traffickers that the Bakken will not be "easy pickings" for the importation or distribution of illegal drugs.

Human Trafficking Also Charged

Two of the men facing federal charges also face accusations of human trafficking in North Dakota state court. According toThe Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, prosecutors allege that the men forced two women into prostitution in Williston, Dickinson, and Minot, North Dakota from April 2014 to April 2015. Court documents show that one of the women also stated that the men supplied her with methamphetamine and heroin.

Drug Use in the Bakken Region

Drug use of any kind in the workplace can have devastating consequences. As the Strike Force shows, drugs have a palpable presence in the Bakken. If you are injured on the job as the result of another employee's drug use, contact us for assistance in ensuring you are fairly compensated.