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Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

An investigation into a drug trafficking ring with connections to North Dakota and California by the federal Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force has led to the indictment of 29 people.

According to the Department of Justice, 22 individuals in western North Dakota and seven defendants in Bakersfield, California have been indicted for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking ring that moved methamphetamine and heroin from Bakersfield to the Bakken region of North Dakota.

The operation, known as Operation Western Edge, took over two years to conduct and was a joint effort between North Dakota and California state officials along with federal and local law enforcement.

“The strike force was designed to work as one unit to identify, target and dismantle criminal organizations working in the Bakken, and reach beyond the borders of North Dakota to ensure the entire criminal organization is brought to justice. After only a few months we are seeing the efficiency, strength and extended reach provided by the strike force model.  The results here are exactly what we hoped for when we designed the strike force,” Acting U. S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers of the District of North Dakota said.

Defendants indicted in North Dakota:

  • Ronnie Ray Taylor, 43, of Bakersfield
  • Terrance Darshay Lynn Peterson, aka Turtle, 42, of Minot, North Dakota
  • Victor Murillo, aka Vic, 32, of Bakersfield
  • Debra Meladore Davis, 49, of Minot
  • Bryan Keith Davis, 48, of Minot
  • Regina Rose Lehman, 43, of Minot
  • Michael John Gietl, 43, in federal custody
  • Robert Raymond Althaus, 44, of Minot
  • Peggy Lee St. Claire, 53, of Minot
  • Jade Marie Backman, 33, of Minot
  • Jody Lee Deharty, 25, of Minot
  • Ricky Dean Strahan, 56, of Minot
  • Gerald Wayne Osby Jr., 22, of Minot
  • James Alex Locklear, 27, of Minot
  • Alyssa Jo Schlienz, 21, of Minot
  • Audra Dezzari Harris, 39, of Minot
  • Gilbert Eugene Graim Jr., 21, of Bakersfield
  • Teoshalashanae M. Songcuan, 24, of Bakersfield
  • Deandre Trayvon Peterson, 24, of Minot
  • Jimmy Dale Price, 42, of Minot
  • Miranda Leigh Grant, 30, of Minot
  • Rodney Lee Jackson, 49, Carson, California

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Volk is prosecuting these cases for the federal District of North Dakota.

Defendants Indicted in the Eastern District of California:

  • Ricardo Cruz Gomez, 23, of Bakersfield
  • Marquiz Demitric Tucker, 44, of Bakersfield
  • Labrea Leshawn Davis, 29, of Bakersfield
  • Robin Lee, 25, of Bakersfield
  • Nina Johnson, 35, of Bakersfield
  • Michael Muniz, 43, of Bakersfield
  • Ruben Valdez Jr., 37, of Bakersfield

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Delaney is prosecuting these cases for the Eastern District of California.

The indictments from both districts were recently unsealed and “are merely accusations,” the DOJ added.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Bakersfield Police Department, the Minot Police Department, the Ward County, North Dakota, Sheriff’s Office, the Ward County Narcotics Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Metro Area Narcotics Task Force, the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the U.S. Border Patrol.

“The FBI is committed to the security of the Bakken area of North Dakota. We will continue to aggressively investigate organized crime wherever it may be found.  We will work with our law enforcement partners, through the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force, to ensure that those who engage in this type of criminal activity pay a high price,” Special Agent in Charge Richard Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division said.

The Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force was launched in June. It’s a multi-agency effort aimed at identifying, targeting and dismantling organized crime in the Bakken, including human trafficking, drug and weapons trafficking as well as white collar crime