Operation Winter's End Results in Drug Trafficking Charges Against 22 Individuals
BISMARCK – U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced today the unsealing of a federal Indictment that charges a total of 22 defendants with drug trafficking offenses. The Indictment, which was filed on March 26, 2013, and unsealed today, is the result of Operation Winter’s End, a long-term, multi-agency investigation into the activities of an alleged drug trafficking organization that has purportedly been dealing heroin and methamphetamine on and around the Fort Berthold Reservation in northwest North Dakota.
In Bismarck, U.S. Attorney Purdon said, “The charges filed as a result of Operation Winter’s End are a first step to address the increased organized drug distribution activities on the Fort Berthold Reservation and in northwestern North Dakota. This Indictment will help make both reservation and non-reservation communities in the Bakken oil patch stronger and safer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to an anti-organized crime strategy in the Bakken oil patch that is built on close cooperation between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. With the help of these law enforcement partners, we will continue to do everything we can to address the growing threat of organized crime in this area.”
Special Agent in Charge Chris Warrener of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis Field Office which includes North Dakota said, “Today’s 22 defendant Indictment of an ongoing investigation named Operation Winter’s End underscores the hard work and coordination of the FBI, BIA, various tribal law enforcement personnel of the Fort Berthold Reservation, along with the prosecutorial skills of the United States Attorney’s Office of North Dakota. This multi-jurisdictional investigation has struck a blow against a large national drug trafficking organization, which has plagued the good people of North Dakota.”
“Jurisdictional issues exist throughout Indian Country and working together with other federal, state and local agencies in a common goal is essential for Indian Country law enforcement,” said Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Agent in Charge Mario RedLegs. “This Operation affirms to the people of Fort Berthold that we are watching vigilantly and ensuring that they do have a safe place to live.”
Those charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin:
Horatio Lopez, a/k/a “Happy,” 33, Wasco, Calif.
Oscar Lopez, 28, Wasco, Calif.
Nathan David McKenzie, a/k/a/ Nate McKenzie, 33, Trenton, N.D.
Jaelyn Faith Crows Breast, 21, New Town, N.D.
Cassie Lynn Packineau, 22, New Town, N.D.
Donald T. Rasmussen, 26, New Town, N.D.
Kealoha Asaga Aulaumea, a/k/a “Sunga,” 21, New Town, N.D.
Bonita June Casarez, 29, New Town, N.D.
LaToya Christine Lone Bear, 31, Mandaree, N.D.
Guy Curtis Slates, 58, New Town, N.D.
Ashly June White, 27, New Town, N.D.
Elizabeth Ann Rodriguez, a/k/a Elizabeth Lockwood, a/k/a Liz Rodriguez, 27, New Town, N.D.
Sean Ray Conklin, 35, New Town, N.D.
Connie Rae Azure, 38, New Town, N.D.
Michael Jason Smith, 32, Evergreen, Colo.
Tomas David Hale, 20, New Town, N.D.
Gary Ray Foote, Jr., a/k/a “Bear,” 20, New Town, N.D.
Hailey Jo Deane, a/k/a Hailey Baker, 25, New Town, N.D.
Avis Gean Finley, 47, New Town, N.D.
Justin Lloyd Price, 24, New Town, N.D.
Akaka Katrina Aulaumea, 24, New Town, N.D.
Megan Darlene Overlie, 21, Minot, N.D.
This investigation was a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs – Drug Enforcement Unit, assisted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs – Law Enforcement Services, the Three Affiliated Tribes Police Department, the Three Affiliated Tribes Criminal Investigations, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.
Purdon stressed that an Indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Volk is prosecuting the case.