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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of North Dakota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Georgia Man Pleads Guilty for Role in Overdoses in ‘Operation Denial’

FARGO - US Attorney Christopher C. Myers announced that on March 1, 2017, Ronnie Lee Helms, 32, Acworth, Georgia, pled guilty before US District Judge Ralph R. Erickson to an Indictment charging him with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of a Controlled Substance and Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death.

At the plea hearing, Helms admitted receiving and arranging the distribution of substances containing fentanyl and acetyl-fentanyl from a source of supply in Canada. This conduct resulted in the death of Joseph Williams in Garland, North Carolina. Two other victims were hospitalized in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Operation Denial is an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl and other lethal drugs, and was significantly aided by the national and international coordination led by the multi-agency Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) near Washington D.C. as part of “Operation Deadly Merchant.” The investigation started in North Dakota on January 3, 2015, with the overdose death in Grand Forks of 18-year-old Bailey Henke.

Additional defendants charged in Federal court in this investigation include:

District of North Dakota

Daniel Vivas Ceron, 36, Columbia – Indicted on charges of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death; Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues into the United States Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death; Aiding and Abetting the Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Death; Money Laundering Conspiracy, and Continuing Criminal Enterprise. Trial pending.

Jameson Robert Sele, 20, Grand Forks, ND – Pled guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances and was sentenced on 7/27/15 to 36 months in federal prison.

Ryan Jon Jensen, 20, Grand Forks, ND – Pled guilty on 2/27/15 to: Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death; two Counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Death; and Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Money Laundering Conspiracy. Sentenced on 2/2/2016 to 20 years in federal prison.

David Todd Noye Jr., 18, Grand Forks, ND – Pled guilty on 5/4/15 to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. Sentenced on 1/25/2016 to serve 3 years and 3 months in federal prison.

Joshua Tyler Fulp, 20, Grand Forks, ND – Pled guilty on 6/23/15 to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

Kain Daniel Schwandt, 19, Grand Forks, ND - Pled guilty on 7/24/15 to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. Sentenced on 1/25/2016 to serve 3 years and 6 months in federal prison.

Brandon Corde Hubbard, 40, Portland, OR - Indicted on charges of: Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death; Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Death; and Money Laundering Conspiracy. Sentenced on 07/13/2016 to serve life in federal prison.

Braden James Foley, 28, Olympia, WA - Pled guilty on 8/11/2016 to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of a Controlled Substance and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on 11/21/2016.

District of Oregon

Steven Fairbanks Locke – Charged with: Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance. Trial pending.

Channing Lacey – Charged with: Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury; Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Death; Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute. Trial pending.

Carissa Marie Laprall – Charged with three Counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute. Trial pending.

The case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Postal Inspection Service, Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Portland Oregon Police Bureau – Drugs and Vice Division, Portland HIDTA Interdiction Task Force, Oregon State Police, and the Grand Forks Police Department.

United States Attorney Christopher C. Myers is prosecuting the cases in North Dakota; Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin is prosecuting the cases in the District of Oregon and will be assisting as a Special Assistant U.S Attorney (SAUSA) in North Dakota as the investigation moves forward.

## An Indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by plea or at a trial. ##

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Prescription Drugs
Component(s): 
Updated March 1, 2017