With a string of recent arrests by federal authorities in connection to a drug pipeline running from Detroit into our state, some officials are saying this is nothing new for tribal nations.
Since January, the North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s office, in partnership with the BIA, DEA and several tribal nations, have made almost 60 arrests — with a majority of the defendants being from the Detroit area.
“In combination, these organizations that we’ve indicted, especially recently, are together responsible for a very, very, very significant percentage of all of the opioids coming into the state of North Dakota,” explained former North Dakota U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley.
Wrigley says through their investigation they found that the dealers originally began distributing on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation because of the amount of money surrounding the energy industry, making the state a prime market for illegal drug trade.
“There’s just too many people with addiction problems and we gotta continue work on that as well. That’s issue number one. When you look at this you have to try and dry up the demand, I guess it one way to put it,” said Wrigley.
Through the investigation, pills that would typically run between $10-$15 somewhere else, dealers could charge up to $100 in North Dakota.
But the Chief of the MHA Drug Enforcement Agency says as many arrests as they make, someone else is always ready to take their spot.
“It’s lucrative for them to keep coming in. So we take some out of the equations but then there’s others that fall back in place. And it’s just a continuing process of indicting them, taking them out,” said Gerald White Jr.
And while many think this is something new, the MHA Drug Enforcement Agency says they have been in the area since 2015.
“We’ve been dealing with Detroit connection from the very start, and even earlier than that they were here. But as a drug enforcement organization, that’s when we started combating that,” explained White.
While they say the battle continues, the tribal nation says they will continue to provide options for those fighting addiction.
“One of the options is to treat them, get them sober and then try to find gainful employment. And try and find other things. Work on their wellness. Wellness for us here means physical, mental, spiritual,” explained MHA Chairman Mark Fox.
Officials say originally they were seeing a lot of pharmaceutical drugs being sold, but in the past year, they say fentanyl has become the primary drug.