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Press Release

“Operation Denial” to Receive National Award for ‘Outstanding Cooperative Effort’

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of North Dakota

FARGO - U. S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers announced on Feb. 19, 2016, that the "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas" (HIDTA) Program honored 20 individuals for their cooperative efforts in "Operation Denial," which was the Grand Forks County Drug Task Force’s investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl and other lethal drugs. This effort was significantly aided by a multi-agency approach, which led to receiving the Outstanding Cooperative Effort award.

Established in 1990 after the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 was passed, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA) is a drug-prohibition enforcement program run by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy. The mission of the program is to enhance and coordinate America’s drug-control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in order to eliminate or reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States. The term "HIDTA" also refers to each geographic location, usually a major city, county, or border crossing, in which the program has established a headquarters which are placed in locations considered to be major drug trafficking zones; to date, 28 HIDTAs have been designated since the program began. Each HIDTA is governed by a HIDTA Executive Board which includes representatives from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in the area of each HIDTA. By law, each HIDTA Board is equally divided between federal law enforcement on the one side and state and local agencies on the other. The Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force is a HIDTA-funded task force.

U.S. Attorney Myers stated: "This is the first time law enforcement in North Dakota has been recognized with a National HIDTA Award. The teamwork in this international investigation was extraordinary and undoubtedly saved lives. "

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said: "This award underscores the exceptional work these law enforcement officers and professionals provide each and every day. They have each gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep North Dakota safe, and I couldn't be prouder of the results they achieved."

Grand Forks County State’s Attorney David Jones remarked: "It is an honor to be included in this recognition which really speaks to the professional bonds between our agencies. Our law enforcement officers and legal staff work tirelessly to make our communities safer, with our agents and officers, in particular, providing selfless service on behalf of the public. No one does this for recognition, but I can think of no higher accolade than this award for Outstanding Cooperative Effort."

The following individuals are being honored by the HIDTA program and will receive the Outstanding Cooperative Effort Award for their hard work on Operation Denial:

• Special Agent Steve Gilpin, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation

• Special Agent Scott Kraft, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation

• Special Agent Michael Ness, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation

• Special Agent Jeremy Grube, Homeland Security Investigations

• Detective Daniel Casetta, Grand Forks Police Department

• Investigator Joel Lloyd, Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office

• Investigator Delicia Glaze, Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office

• Detective Darin Johnson, Grand Forks Police Department

• Sergeant Devan Greuel, University of North Dakota Police Department

• Investigator Andreas Alt, WCSO/Grand Forks Police Department/ Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force

• Sergeant Derek Madsen, Pembina County Sheriff’s Office

• Christopher Steenerson, Border Patrol

• Intelligence Analyst Lisa Gemar, North Dakota Bureau of Investigation

• Intelligence Analyst Ross Brumley, North Dakota Counter Drug

• Sergeant Travis Jacobson, Grand Forks Police Department

• United States Attorney Chris Myers, District of North Dakota

• Assistant United States Attorney Scott Schneider, District of North Dakota

• Assistant United States Attorney Scott Kerin, District of Oregon

• Grand Forks County State’s Attorney David Jones

• Grand Forks County Assistant State’s Attorney Carmell Mattison

The following defendants, who are each from Grand Forks, have been sentenced in this case:

Ryan Jon Jensen - 240 months (20 years)

Joshua Tyler Fulp – 144 months (12 years)

Kain Daniel Schwandt – 42 months (3 ½ years)

David Todd Noye Jr. – 39 months (3 years 3 months)

Jameson Robert Sele – 36 months (3 years)

Brandon Corde Hubbard of Portland, Oregon, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing in federal court in Fargo on March 14, 2016.

Ronnie Lee Helms of Acworth, Georgia, and Braden James Foley of Olympia, Washington, have been indicted in this case and are currently scheduled for trial May 3, 2016, in Fargo.

Daniel Vivas Ceron was arrested in Panama City, Panama, on July 17, 2015, and is currently awaiting extradition from Panama.

An Indictment is merely and accusation and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Updated February 19, 2016

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