FARGO – United States Attorney Mac Schneider announced that on January 6, 2023, United States District Judge Daniel L. Hovland sentenced 32-year-old Darius Sledge, a/k/a Ace, a/k/a Man Man, a/k/a Frank Love, a/k/a Gary, a/k/a Bill, to serve 30 years in prison followed by three years supervised release.
In June of 2022, following a 12-day trial, a jury returned guilty verdicts on multiple counts against Sledge and another man from Detroit, Michigan, for their leadership in a drug trafficking organization targeting three of North Dakota’s Native American Reservations.
Darius Sledge was convicted of Continuing Criminal Enterprise, Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Money Laundering Conspiracy, and Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premise. Sledge also forfeited his rights to more than $20,000 in seized United States currency.
His trial co-defendant, Baquan Sledge, a/k/a Rell, a/k/a TJ, a/k/a Matthew Pierce, was also convicted of Continuing Criminal Enterprise, Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Money Laundering Conspiracy,and Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premise as well as Possession with Intent to Distribute Oxycodone. Baquan Sledge will be sentenced on January 13, 2023.
This case is part of “Operation Blue Prairie,” an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the multi-state trafficking of oxycodone.
“This sentence is a warning to anyone targeting our tribal communities for the distribution of dangerous drugs: You will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will serve a long sentence in federal prison”, said US Attorney Mac Schneider. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to continuing our partnership with federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement to promote public safety in Indian country and across North Dakota.”
The multi-agency investigation led by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement revealed that the Sledge defendants and their co-conspirators targeted areas with fewer law enforcement resources where they could distribute controlled substances at a premium price. The Sledge defendants and others used local residences and people for distribution and stash houses to further their criminal activities for monetary gain. In total, twenty-six defendants were charged in the case.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rolette County Sheriff’s Department, Bottineau County Sheriff’s Department, Ward County Narcotics Task Force, Lake Region Narcotics Task Force, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Division of Drug Enforcement, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, North Dakota Crime Laboratory, Michigan State Police, Minot Police Department, United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, with Assistant United States Attorneys Dawn Deitz and Lori Conroy assigned with the assistance of lead investigator Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement Special Agent Isaiah Soldier.