North Dakota (KXNET) — Operation Blue Prairie is the investigation into a large drug ring on North Dakota’s Indian Reservation, running since 2015.
These drug rings account for tens of thousands of oxycodone pills worth more than $2 million throughout the Spirit Lake, Turtle Mountain and Fort Berthold Indian Reservations.
The DEA seized more than 59.6 million fentanyl-laced pills and more than 13 thousand pounds of fentanyl powder and that was just in last year’s statistics.
According to the DEA, fentanyl is on a rampage throughout the United States. Mexican cartels are pushing out seemingly identical pharmaceutical-grade oxycodone-hydrochloride tablets, laced with fentanyl, and United States drug mules are picking them up and distributing them throughout the nation, including Indian lands.
These small but dangerous pills are processed in felonious environments, just like any other drug, as well as methamphetamine.
“People on the street are buying these pills thinking they are the real deal, but they’re not,” says Regional Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rafael Mattei. “And when you buy them on the street, you don’t know how much fentanyl you’re getting.”
Causing a potential overdose.
These pills are deadly and highly addictive, which is why officials and law enforcement are cracking down on traffickers, and taking action. Several cases have been closed, and many criminals are now behind bars serving long sentences.
“It’s plain and simple, we need truth in sentencing, we need the sentencing of violent crime in particular, and drug trafficking to be more reflective of the dangers to our communities,” says North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley. “Sentences need to be longer and they need to be served, truth in sentencing.”
Most drug traffickers are charged with other crimes, as well such as human trafficking, money laundering, or obtaining illegal weapons.
One of Operation Blue Prairie’s investigations involved 26 defendants charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess and intent to distribute a controlled substance, while others also faced weapons and money laundering charges.
Two of the 26 defendants were brothers Baquan and Darius Sledge, who each received 30 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.
“If you do widely target Indian country for distribution of these drugs, you’re going to be caught… you’re going to be prosecuted… you’re going to go to jail,” says U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Mac Schneider.
Federal, state, local, and tribal partners all contribute efforts to this threat. With the hope that sentences like the ones that came from the drug operation with the two brothers can help prevent drug traffickers believing that they can target our Indian Reservations.
“This is not as they say, rocket science, this is not the rocket science component of life,” Wrigley expressed. “And I know that there is more that we can do and we’re pushing for it.”
The DEA says, never trust your own eyes to determine if a pill is legitimate. The only safe medications are the ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.