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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

North Dakota and Montana U.S. Attorneys Announce Creation of Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force in Oil Patch

Federal and state law enforcement officials from North Dakota and Montana have announced the creation of the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force.  Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Myers for the District of North Dakota, U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter for the District of Montana joined Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota to announce the Strike Force.  Director Bruce Ohr for the Organzied Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) was present for the announcement.  The multi-agency effort is aimed at identifying, targeting and dismantling organized crime in the Bakken, including human trafficking, drug and weapons trafficking, as well as white collar crimes. 

The announcement follows the 2013 creation of Project Safe Bakken, a collaborative law enforcement program in Montana and North Dakota that joins federal, state and tribal law enforcement to battle criminal activity in the Bakken.  The Bakken is a vast swatch of oil-rich land spanning approximately 200,000 square miles from North Dakota to eastern Montana and north to Canada.  It has resulted in dramatic influxes in the population as well as serious crimes, including the importation of pure methamphetamine from Mexico and multi-million dollar fraud and environmental crimes.

Strike force members will be based out of Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot and Williston, North Dakota, and work with designated prosecutors to staff and prosecute cases. 

“The strike force will have the capability of not only dismantling local criminal organizations in the Bakken, but also to take out the national and international components of these organizations wherever they may be located,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Myers.  “The strike force will take a regional approach to a regional problem, coordinating with Montana law enforcement.  We value the strong partnerships already developed with Montana U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox in this fight.”

In his remarks, U.S. Attorney Cotter announced that Project Safe Bakken has already resulted in 210 federal narcotic prosecutions in Montana, in addition to numerous other prosecutions involving complex financial fraud, worker endangerment and the transportation of hazardous materials. 

“The Bakken’s criminal impact transcends borders and so should our law enforcement response,” said U.S. Attorney Cotter.  “The strike force is a welcome addition to our existing multi-jurisdictional law enforcement efforts in the region.” 

Director Ohr for OCDETF said he “fully supports the efforts being made in North Dakota and Montana to bring law enforcement agencies and prosecutors together to address the crime problems arising from the oil boom in the Bakken.”  

Federal officials in Montana and North Dakota continue to expand their law enforcement presence in the region.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation is building a new office in Williston.  Once completed, this office will house a federally-funded Safe Streets Task Force.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also assigned two special agents and two state agents sworn as federal agents to Sidney, Montana, to investigate crime in both Montana and North Dakota.

Updated June 3, 2015